(Massive Open Online Courses Or Whatever!)

Make change
— Doctorow (2012)

You can’t predict what isn’t preordained but you can influence the future. Social modelling and inspirational seed-sowing.

You grow towards the light that inspires you and take shape from the shadows surrounding. Education – literature, audio, visual cues – makes a print on the overall shape of a developmental picture.

Education is influence; influence is change.

Why Things Matter (… things, matter… you get it?! *chortle*)

Bleecker, J. (2006). A manifesto for networked objects — Cohabiting with pigeons, arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things.


I used to think science fiction was the stuff of fantasy – food in a pill that tastes like the holographic entity it impersonates… nonsense, that never could be…. that was until Heston Blumenthal came along and made carrots impregnated with the tastes of childhood or Coca-cola made zero-calorie drinks taste sweet, no sugar added. Suddenly the stuff of Star Trek fantasy only 30 years ago is coming into modern-day focus. Clearer and more real than ever before.

You only have to look at Bruce Sterling’s ‘spime’ to realise just how quickly we have progressed even over the last 10 years:

We have location trackers on mobile objects. We have exceptionally powerful GPS tracing. We have 3D printers. We use them all pretty much every day.

But ‘blogjects’ are really that different from checked-in humans on 4-square – their precise location mapped onto identifiable an meaningful pin-points. Aircraft are blogjects – but the bloggers within them make a whole ‘nother level of connections, adding to an already exceptionally large dataset… which isn’t being analysed, namely because we have no reason (at this stage) to do so and/or no tools to do this easily.

Although, focusing on the blogject recontextualises the lack of distinguishable difference between stuff and people – people are stuff too, made of matter that matter to other matter(s), leaving a trace which is also a mark on the matter it has touched. Interesting, stuff.

“History is the remnants of experiences Blogjects acquire.”

Related stuff:

The helpless human

… as humanism transforms itself into something that we must helplessly call posthumanism.

Ihab Hassan

What is the imperative to draw from the ‘human’ and why are we helpless to call it otherwise?

Human was not the start of life nor will it probably be present at the very end – ‘posthumanism’ is re-establishing humility, a humbling of the human to a modest beginning of equal status; intrinsic equality as human had yet to construct and impose hierarchical relationships and develop an inflated sense of worth.

Surely, the transformation of humanism would more helpfully be called ‘regression of the ego’ or pre-egoism – removing the human focus altogether.

Is it not boarder-line ironic and limiting through recursion to define the whole by a single part, through the eyes of that single part. If concepts only gain meaning through application of meaning, whilst residing neutral beneath, then just as quickly as the feeling of helplessness took over, empowerment can replace.

If I were a butterfly…

If I were a butterfly, would I care to thank a male, human creator for giving me my wings? And as a kangaroo, would I hop right up to a humanoid, worst still would such humanoid be expecting it? Sure, if I were a fish, I’m probably going to splash around a bit but I doubt as a bear, octopus or crocodile, should these creatures possess the same level of higher reasoning skills as humans, I would think to thank another species for my species’ attributes.

If other animals evolved such skills, would they makes species-specific versions of humanism – llamaism or amphibianism – each species feeling they are the most important entity in existence, with each other species shaped purely as a comodity for their superior development?

Biologically : species bias; difficulty to see the world through eyes you do not possess, especially if it is more than just environmental factors, the entire physiology is different.

Type bias – societies and cultural prejudice – in group/out group mentality

Is it the higher reasoning itself that triggers such opinion forming or is it the coincidence of species higher reasoning and lack of regulatory ‘other’, ie another species of equitable reasoning who can debate relative standing and promote ‘humility’, that has caused the human bias?

When animals become friends, does the cat look at the dog and think ‘you’re a funny looking cat, but I’ll be friends with you anyway!’ or is this an irrelevant over simplification based on a human categorised view, ie we like to categorise things to make meaning of them but this distinction is only important to our systems and has very little impact or purpose in other contexts – it is far more likely that the cat will look at the dog and think ‘I don’t want to eat you and I think you won’t eat me, so let’s collocate for a while and maybe we can kill a mouse together’.

Danielle: A bird may love a fish, signore, but where will they live?

Leonardo da Vinci: Then I shall have to make you wings.

— Ever After (1998)

Rather than post-humanism, which by definition attracts focus to the human, we should in fact be thinking about going back to the roots of life: ‘pre’ humanism.

Taking steps backwards in moving ‘forward’ – pagan > Christianity. Although Humanists would not themselves agree with bundling up their ethical framework with Christianity, they share common attributes – celebration of the human. Whereas Pagan theology typically celebrates a wider set of living and non-living things.

Pantheism: “divinity is inseparable from nature and that deity is immanent in nature.” (Alder 2006)


Adler, Margot (2006) [First published 1979]. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America (Revised Edition ed.). London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-303819-1.

Feminist online courses

In their article, “Toward a civic rhetoric for technologically and scientifically complex places: Invention, performance, and participation,” W. Michele Simmons and Jeffrey T. Grabill (2007) investigate “how people can write to change communities,” and how computers, the Internet, and a lack of specialized knowledge can hinder successful change (p. 427).

Feminist Online Writing Courses
Civic Rhetoric, Community Action, and Student Success

Letizia Guglielmo

Limiting structures

Just because I have a flat, doesn’t mean I sleep there all the time.

Just because I have an office, doesn’t mean I work there every working day.

Just because I don’t own a bike, doesn’t mean I can’t cycle.

Just because there’s structure, doesn’t mean I use it.

The act of structuring and being left behind

In a world of divergent MOOC types, we are left comparing the differences in ways that diverge them further. Yet it seems surprising that the similarities which remain have been left quietly in the background.

What appears most striking is the composition of the MOOC itself remains very similar – irrespective of the author’s role in the realm of intended audience, the author themselves undertakes a searching/sourcing task of collating a collection of resources for others to engage with, with they themselves undertaking a learning process which many can follow or glean insight/understanding from once published.

“Being digital makes them not circumscribed by space constraints or by resource availability.” — Rodriguez (2013)

Oh but it does! Just because it is online, doesn’t mean it’s accessible, nor does it mean the resource will be there.

Either way, the resources used are chosen for their mass online accessibility – if it can not be found or viewed, it can not be used, unless instructed by the tutor as necessary for the course upfront (a notion most non-US xMOOCs stay clear of due to different cultural education styles and irony of the ‘open’ label). As a result, there is positive bias associated with open resources.

Will this cause a cultural shift?

Will resources not found freely available online be left behind?

(Article) xMOOC or new publishing paradigm?

When nature and culture intersect

The concept of openness

The concept of openness behind c and x-MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) – Osvaldo Rodriguez
Open Praxis, vol. 5 issue 1, January–March 2013, pp. 67–73

Limitations of Access

Knox, J. (2013). The Limitations of Access Alone: moving towards open processes in education. Open Praxis. 5(1). pp. 21-29.


Constructivism relies on the belief that there is not a single reality to be discovered but that each individual has constructed their own personal learning (Smith & Ragan, 199). One of the key persons behind constructivism is Piaget and one of its key tenets is that “knowledge is not transmitted: it is constructed”. Which basically means we need to get into dialogues with each other in order to make sense of new information” — MOOC Yourself (58%)

Open Masters programme


Skeptical hippo is skeptical.

Where are the credits? Are there any? Is this true learning?

Different types of the /same/ thing

MOOCs: taxonomy of 8 types of MOOC
— Donald Clark


Better by default

Digital vs Human – better by default campaign and critique

Learner centred issue

Does putting the learner at the centre of the MOOC rehumanise the focus and question the post-human potential? What does posthuman really mean?

The MOOC does not reconceive the human, merely recentres the focus.

Fluidity is only possible through means by which fluid is embraced – rigid structures of xMOOCs question the organic emergence of learning. However, no all follow the same path, despite many feeling they got what they wanted.

Is it possible to embody different identities through a MOOC? Forums, blogs, reflections, discussions could be viewed as platforms which have the potential to enable or facilitate identity creation of different guises, but does not prescribe it.

Could it be that the origin of the posthuman lies within the human – the lens applied is important rather than the structure itself.

Fini (2009)

The Technological Dimension of a Massive Open Online Course: The Case of the CCK08 Course Tools

Notes and reflections available on Stan’s wiki:


MOOC Yourself

“As such it is within the hand of the participants and organisers of a MOOC to adapt it to the needs and goals participants want to attain… The community builds and adapts its own playground to the needs of their members.”

“… I strongly believe there is still a deficit in education and efficient training, although education should be a worldwide economic priority… [it] is still a huge global need.”

“In short, MOOCs allow participants to connect no matter what their expertise, age or background. The collaborative effort transforms all information and ideas into new insights.”

— MOOC Yourself, Inge Ignatia D Waard

Although promoting the feminist ideal, is it still the case that the MOOC is missing the fundamental core of a posthuman educational method?

Evolution – key theme

Exciting thought – the viral nature of connectism. Within minutes of receiving Steven Downes weekly update, I had not only read the short summary of the book, but downloaded it and read the first chapter. As is likely to be true for thousands of others around the world. WOW.

Why online programmes fail…

… precisely as a result of thought in terms of conversion (from f2f to digital).

So often we see new opinion pieces claiming the old and all too frequently looking out of context. Sure, if the world of online education were to grow entirely out of the premise that all human contact in education could and should be deleted then yet we should consider ways of digitalising the Undergraduate experience of meeting people and building communities.

However, communities do build already online and the idea of this being contrived goes against the notion of community – it bubbles up organically as per the needs of those within it. If it happens on twitter, great – if it doesn’t, not an issue.

As an ODL student, I both simultaneously have and do not want what this article says I need: coming in as a postgraduate, we all enter the course with the interdisciplinary discussion potential of the University campus catering hall – we all have different backgrounds, different experience bases, different lenses through which to view the course content, providing each student with richness and diversity within the peer group; but I am also a postgraduate student, studying online, balancing other existing commitments – if this bourgeois discussion ground happens, it is often ad hoc and by chance at best. I do not have the time or inclination to talk to anyone on a different programme to my own – why would I? Sure, it might be a novelty initially, but sadly I do not feel I can justify hovering in a contrived online community space to bring together a greater sense of belonging… I feel I belong just fine!

Learner analytics


Learning analytics at Stanford takes huge leap forward with MOOCs
Stanford’s Lytics Lab studies data from massive online courses to learn more about how we learn.


“Deconstructing Disengagements: Analyzing Learner Subpopulations in Massive Open Online Courses,” Kizilcec, Piech and Schneider

Automated marking

Re-humanising the de-humanised – automated marking is nothing without the carefully articulated human-input evidence base. It needs a suitable volume of steer to make judgements and try to create algorithms to simulate the thinking of the academic markers.


“But think about this. Machine learning can assess students’ work instantly. The output of the system isn’t just a grade; it’s a comprehensive, statistical judgment of every single word, phrase, and sentence in a text. This isn’t an opaque judgment from an overworked TA; this is the result of specific analysis at a fine-grained level of detail that teachers with a red pen on a piece of paper would never be able to give. What if, instead of thinking about how this technology makes education cheaper, we think about how it can make education better? What if we lived in a world where students could get scaffolded, detailed feedback to every sentence that they write, as they’re writing it, and it doesn’t require any additional time from a teacher or a TA?

That’s the world that automated assessment is unlocking.”

Felt making

Individually nurtured and each piece unique. Although an organic mesh of fibres, the fabric is not without structure.

What do you mean… open?

  1. Open = accessible, ‘supported open learning’, interactive, dialogue. Accessibility was key.
  2. Open = equal opportunity, unrestricted by barriers or impediments to education and educational resources.
  3. Open = transparency, sharing educational aims and objectives with students, disclosing marking schemes and offering exam and tutorial advice.
  4. Open = open entry, most important, no requirement for entrance qualifications. All that was needed were ambition and the will/motivation to learn.


“Perhaps the most commonly used sense of ‘open’ has been the idea of creating opportunities for study for those debarred from it for whatever reasons, be it lack of formal educational attainments or shortage of vacancies, poverty, remoteness, employment or domestic necessities.”

Open Learning: Systems and problems in post-secondary education Mackenzie, Postgate and Scupham, 1975

One Laptop Per Child

The MOOC target audience is still very much that – the aim not the achieved.