Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Explaining cMOOCs & #rhizo14 authoethnography & #connectedcourses


Three loosely “connected” things are happening to me, all three related to “connectedness”, connectivism, and cMOOCs, so I thought I would blog about this to help me think through it all

1. Connected Courses
In chronological reverse order, last night I finally got around to reading about (and of course signing up for – how could I not?) “connected courses” (thanks to Terry Elliott who created a special twitter account for it, which reminded me of Penny Bentley’s tagging me to read Jim Groom’s blog post about connected courses on facebook, which had reminded me I had not yet read that blogpost of Jim’s – he sometimes blogs in bulk and I can’t catch up hehe)

According to Jim’s blog, Connected Courses is:

“The idea is relatively simple, we’ll be providing a framework and support for educators who want to explore what it means to teach a connected course. The dream is that it becomes a broader, inclusive community that fosters and supports ongoing collaboration and exploration.”

And the combination of people involved is breathtaking and for me, what’s the word? Alluring? I’m salivating from excitement 🙂 People who designed and facilitated #ds106 (which i admire from the sidelines, but Alan Levine says I can be considered part of coz i dip in to look and use the hashtag occasionally hehe), #clmooc which made my summer and was incredible, #etmooc and Alec Couros whom I am dying to work with, #femtechnet which I heard about a bit during #tvsz and look forward to knowing more about. Howard Rheingold, Mike Wesch – people I have read but never interacted with; but also people I have had the pleasure of interacting with like Mia Zamora and Kim Jaxon (during clmooc) and also more familiar people to me like Jim and Alan (with a photo of himself on that page, no less! Hehe)… I am so looking forward to this.

Interested? Sign up here. It sounds like a semester-long professional development heaven, to me 🙂

But also wondering why some others are not involved? I wonder if this can be considered a meta-MOOC and the Hybrid Ped folks can be involved with weekly #moocmooc chat; I wonder why Dave Cormier and George Siemens and Stephen Downes are not involved. I guess you can’t involve everybody but to me these people seem almost essential to this enterprise?

2. Considering designing a cMOOC
Ok, long story short, someone asked me if something they’re doing can be done as a MOOC. I won’t disclose any details, but my response was, it can be done as a cMOOC, not an xMOOC. However, few people really know what a cMOOC is or how it works! Facilitators and participants.

Way back when I wrote my first peer-reviewed article on MOOCs (never mind that it got published months later), I had yet to experience a cMOOC (my first experience easing into it was #edcmooc then it went fullblast with #rhizo14). Now, I almost cannot tolerate xMOOCs any more, and have had so many more cMOOC experiences. As AK wrote somewhere, it’s easy to take several xMOOCs in parallel, but if you truly engage with a cMOOC, you probably won’t be able to handle more than two at a time. That’s been my experience, too, although #rhizo14 is always in the background as a PLN/community, some of whom I also interact with in “new” MOOCs.

Anyway, my point is, that I think most interactive valuable learning experiences can be converted to online and massive – but not as xMOOCs, as cMOOCs. But I say this with lots reservation, because cMOOCiness is not something that I think everyone has the disposition for. And that’s a very tricky thing, as a lot of people can benefit from the learning that would result from it, but it’s not something intuitively easy for many people to do. It’s not just the social media literacy, the willingness to be open/interactive (people can learn a lot from lurking, of course, but they’d be missing out on some parts of the experience, if that makes sense? They’d learn from watching others interact, but not be central to that interaction, so there is an element missing), the info overload, the unspoken rules…

3. Explaining cMOOCs and the Collaborative Autoethnography
Which brings me to this final and important point: before I experienced a cMOOC, i had no idea what it meant each time I read it, reading about nodes, etc, made no sense. The only writing about this idea that made some sense to me was Dave Cormier on rhizomatic learning (thank you Jesse Stommel), and that’s how I got into #rhizo14 and my life was transformed into connectivist heaven 🙂 or some such utopia 🙂

Anyway, during the second week of enjoying that experience, I asked if others would be interested in researching the experience we were all having, and this eventually culminated into the collaborative autoethnography some of are all working on now.

One of my main goals for doing this was to find a way to get participants to narrate their own experiences of a connectivist course, how they navigate it, what sense of community inclusion/exclusion they felt, how it was for them. In plain English, not in complex theory language that will go over most people’s heads.

Scott Johnson once said that innovation or new ideas sound like noise at first to someone who doesn’t “get it” and I think connectivism is one such thing that sounds very much like noise to people.


I think connectivism sounds like “noise” to most people who have not experienced it. Heck, twitter sounds like “noise” (I keep resisting saying it sounds like Chinese because I am aware that many ppl in the world actually do understand Chinese!) when I try to describe it to someone. I want to find a way to explain it to people who are not social media active, or at least not toooo social media active. Many people are tech savvy and digitally literate, and still the idea of cMOOCs eludes them. It’s possible that cMOOCs aren’t for everyone, or at least won’t be in the near future… But something in the history of ed tech makes me think the future may be different.

I still remember when I first heard of email in 1993/4 in my computer studied class in school. Two people in the room had email: our teacher, and one student, and they talked about it while the rest of us understood absolutely nothing. We were like, “what’s the difference between that and a fax?”. Of course, a couple of years later, email was my life. Why would anyone use a fax machine? Fastforward 2006, when my friends kept talking about facebook and I was like, “how is that different from email?” But I joined anyway and… Well you know how that story goes. And then of course twitter, “how’s that different from facebook?” And you know… Well, now, I use twitter DM and facebook PM much more than email (reserved mainly for professional actually work stuff) and more often than not, something I would have have done privately ends u being public because I think it can benefit others to be made public. What a different mindset this is.

So I wonder what others think… Are cMOOCs incomprehensible to some people who never experienced them because of a literacy, skill, or mindset? Is it a matter of time before more people become open, connectivist educators (they’re related in my mind), or will there always be a group of us on that side of the fence, hopefully advocating and growing, but not the majority?

Do you think non-connectivist ppl could benefit from the connected courses MOOC thing? Or might it go over their heads?

Resources, anyone?
Oh, and if anyone has stumbled upon a description of connectivism that is clear to outsiders, please provide the link 🙂 Thanks. Until then, I’m sticking to rhizomatic learning, although I believe not all connectivist theory/practice necessarily fits that description.


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