More back-peddling as I dig deeper into MOOC-world.

The next stage of the task:

Choose a text to read from a presented selection

Enrol on a cMOOC (two choices given) and an xMOOC (Future Learn or Corsera) to compare.

Wasn’t looking forward to it based on my previous xMOOC experiences. But…

First I tackled the reading. After my little rant on my previous post about so little attention to pedagogy of MOOCs I was pleased but slightly ashamed to find an option on the reading list called “ Stacey (2013), The pedagogy of MOOCs.”.

This provided a great read that had me frantically scribbling many notes about things to come back to. It also contained another useful summary of the history of OERs and MOOCS (which sent me on a massive side track looking for timelines – another blog post another day!) and the evolutions through which they’ve been. I’m already beginning to think I’ve maybe been overly harsh on xMOOCS and try to remember when my last experience was and what I was trying to learn. Can’t quite remember, only that it was unsuccessful, boring, not what I needed etc. But here, Stacey was making MOOCs sound quite appealing!

I was pleased to find Cormier providing the background to the early pedagogical approaches to MOOCS and the ‘Five Steps to Success’. I’d enjoyed his writing in my post “Open education, freedom zero, mythological metaphors and our currently evolving status” and learnt that he’d actually invented the term, so it figured to find him here discussing the pedagogy to MOOC success.

Without specifying whether cMOOC or xMOOC he defines it in five steps:

  1. Orient: find out where everything is and make sure you can access it
  2. Declare: a place for your thoughts and reflections. A tag group, blog, forum etc
  3. Network: Find others’ postings, comment and discuss.
  4. Cluster: start to form smaller groups with people you most identify with
  5. Focus: mind can start to wander after a time so create a project and draw on your cluster to maintain focus.

He goes on to say that “A MOOC doesn’t presume what you need to know – it’s a catalyst for emerging knowledge, an unpredictable knowledge base that develops from a knowledge network…”

Hmm, I’m thinking by now, this is getting closer to what I’m after but it’s pretty flabby as far as a ‘pedagogy’ goes…

And then Stacey starts to talk about the 2011 innovation DS106, whereby “a highly innovative pedagogical approach to assignments. Rather than confidential, secret assignments created by faculty, ds106 course assignments are collectively created by course participants over all offerings of the course and are posted online in an Assignment Bank anyone can access.”

By now I’m wondering how come I’ve never stumbled across this, it’s just what I’m looking for! And so it goes on as I progress through the text. Stacey highlights a couple of new MOOC setups that has caught his eye and among the many other diversions I’ve already taken, I go and take a look. Interesting but still somehow not quite there.

Stacey concludes also that there’s still much work to be done on MOOC pedagogy and provides some good links for further research. He closes with some useful pedagogical recommendations and I’ll take him at his ‘open’ word and share them here:

  • Be as open as possible. Go beyond open enrollments and use open pedagogies that leverage the entire web not just the specific content in the MOOC platform. As part of your open pedagogy strategy use OER and openly license your resources using Creative Commons licenses in a way that allows reuse, revision, remix, and redistribution. Make your MOOC platform open source software. Publish the learning analytics data you collect as open data using a CC0 license.
  • Use tried and proven modern online learning pedagogies not campus classroom-based didactic learning pedagogies which we know are ill-suited to online learning.
  • Use peer-to-peer pedagogies over self-study. We know this improves learning outcomes. The cost of enabling a network of peers is the same as that of networking content – essentially zero.
  • Use social learning including blogs, chat, discussion forums, wikis, and group assignments.
  • Leverage massive participation – have all students contribute something that adds to or improves the course overall.

The article is well worth a read in full. (Accessed online 11-04-20.

It was with a sigh that I decided I’d side-tracked enough and it was time to enrol on some MOOCs. Then, to my excitement, I found I had a comment on my previous post. Better still, it seemed to be recommending an xMOOC!


We had a quick exchange through the comments (me, astonished as the theory of networking unfolds before my eyes!). She sends me the link (which I duly follow) and some very useful responses to my questions. I’m sharing here so others can benefit. Thanks #Vicky Devaney. It was a perfect recommendation in a number of ways. Not least that it achieves in an infinitely slicker and more organised manner, exactly what I once tried to achieve to help tutors and trainees within my organisation to access and use the Moodle! It was a real pleasure to see how it’s been structured and put together. You are right, tasks clear and simple and a good effort at multimedia materials. I different experience to my previous xMOOC forays. There was a lot to please in there – I was astonished at how active the discussion group is. I did wonder if that has escalated recently to the current situation? I also wonder if the difference is due to Future Learn v Coursera or if it’s how they’ve progressed. Sigh. It seems that after all I’ve somehow talked myself into going back into Future Learn anyway. But not today.


We were given a choice of two cMOOCs to explore. I’d already had a brief foray into DS106 as a result of the Stacey reading, so I go for Rhizomatic 15. Ha ha, guess who I find again? My by-now-old-friend Cormier! He appears to have set this course up as a part of his own research. It was interesting, if a very brief look, and in the end I felt disappointed and let down by him as nowhere could I find a link to that research.

A Comparison

 cMOOC #Rhizo15 Coursera. Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology
PedagogyConnectivism Community as curriculum Rhizomatic learningCognitivism and behaviourism Flipped classroom
TechnologyAny – mobile, tablet or desktop. Ethernet, wireless, 4G, apps.   In terms of platforms used: AnyPrimarily Desktop/ wi-fi appropriate materials. I haven’t checked if there’s an app, not seen mention. Some of the resources might be available via mobile online. Probably tablet as well.   In terms of platforms used: Coursera portal Mixed media, interactions and assessment types.
Approach and philosophy (possibly a bit blurred with pedagogy)Knotworking and rhizomatic – seeping through a community forging links and networks that create an eco-system capable of self-supporting and problem solving. User ownership in terms of activity and learning outcomes. Leveraging: situated activity theory; peripheral participation and self-directed learning theoriesManaged by Ai. The learning design is usefully, not just clearly stated but open for anyone to register, access and use! Already registered. It’s based around: “the six learning types from Diana Laurillard’s Conversational Framework – a model of the conditions necessary for learning to take place. The six learning types are: Read/Write/Listen (or Acquisition), Inquiry, Practice, Production, Discussion and Collaboration” Here: It’s definitely a creator ownership situation in terms of structuring and curating the learning artifacts in order to achieve the pre-determined outcomes. But, you can choose how you engage with the learning materials – see below.  
StrengthsAppears to be a genuine attempt to provide as open a model as possible.   Provides a usefully focused platform for highly motivated, self-directed learning to evolve.A certificate is available at the end if you pay, and adhere more closely to the course. You can also choose to be a bit hapzard, like me, and no pay, no focus, no certificate. Learning materials looked clear, well presented and appealing to a range of different learner types. I didn’t complete the course but after a few ‘lessons’ am quite sure attaining the learning objectives is within the reach of anyone who had the skills to find and sign up to the course (with a supportive IT dept. at work) Personally I am besotted with the transcript text below the video that highlights the bit that is being said.** see more below! Good use of multimedia though if every section is the same routine it could get tedious. Discussion group remarkably active.
Possible challengesQuestionably not as open as it appears: Some students need more structure in order to be successfulSome students might need pointers to technical supportSome students might need a means of demonstrating the learning they’ve undertaken, however informal.Based around the ‘owner’s’ platform of choice: Twitter. Maybe not the most accessible to everyone and also not best for long term curation of discussions and resources for easy reference back? (not a Twitter fan!) Astonished by the instruction “Be persistent, if you don’t hear the first time, post again. Try posting at a different time of day. Don’t give up” My imagination: I make a post. No one responds. Second post: “Hi World. Did you actually not see my last post or did you deliberately choose to ignore it?”. Still no response. Crisis. Probably never return to course. Could be very intimidating, or humiliating. To be fair to him he does go on to say “Respond to others. Make connections”. But still, sorry Cormier, no way!  Lack of a ‘real person’. In the “Student perceptions of Open Pedagogy” document, it seemed to be the tutor that made all the difference. The de-personalisation could be a de-motivating factor (though arguably, for some it may be motivating).   Didn’t see much evidence of OERs. Stacey highlights accusations that the ‘new MOOCs are “Ignoring OERs…enclosing students in a DRMd in a proprietary way”   Could reach that point where focus begins to wane though if following while working on a real project that would help.   Still, not much scope for really individualised learning or freedom from what has been prescribed.  
Other commentsIn reality is it much more than a focused discussion forum set up by the ‘owner’ in order to peruse his own interests? Not necessarily a problem but possibly not the best use of the term ‘course’. Pity as I love the idea of Rhizomatic learning and knotworking. Disappointed the links are dead, no resources to be found on the blog page or research (maybe there but well hidden?) The Facebook group seems to be still active, if maybe a little off-topic at the moment. Haven’t checked Twitter. Might get around to seeing if I can raise a response about the research findings. I guess it’s somewhere on the blog.Was very pleasantly surprised. It felt user friendly. Would recommend this course – in fact, going to do so soon.   Still not sure how compliant I’d be unless I’d been mandated to follow it by my organisation. Think I’d get frustrated and want to skip to certain bits. Fighting against the structure, but that’s me.


Really interesting to look at both of these MOOC examples. I learnt a huge amount, especially not to jump to conclusions! But ultimately, I think I’m looking for something in between. A cMOOC model that is truly user led, multi tool and multi-directional learning approach that includes something like the xMOOC as an option for those who want it as well as other more formalised offerings. The main difference with a ‘pure’ cMOOC (I think) is that this activity would be taking place from within a dedicated portal (such as an LXP) so that all would be able to track and capture their learning events.

**The text that highlights as they speak. First, has someone had to type out all the text or is it Ai? If Ai which one? How to access? Also, is the text highlighting an open application or something you have to pay for. Again, any pointers?


Cormier, D. (2015) A practical guide to Rhizo15, Dave’S Educational Blog  Building A Better Rhizome, [Online]. Available at (Accessed 11 April 2020).

Dimakopoulos, D. (2020) Learning Designer, Ucl.Ac.Uk, [Online]. Available at (Accessed 12 April 2020).

Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology | Coursera (2020) Coursera, [Online]. Available at (Accessed 12 April 2020).

Hilton III, J., Wiley, D., Chaffee, R., Darrow, J., Guilmett, J., Harper, S. and Hilton, B. (2019) Student Perceptions of Open Pedagogy: An Exploratory Study, Open Praxis, vol. 11, no. 3, p. 275 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 11 April 2020).

Jansen, D., Brown, M., Read, T., Barcels, E., Sedano, B., Lapworth, A., Aydin, C., Traxler, J., Fueyo, A., Hevia, I., Valesco, S., Creelman, A., Witthaus, G., Friedl, C., Staubitz, T., Karachristos, C., Lazarinis, F., Stavropoulos, E. and Verykios, V. (2018) The 2018 Openuped Trend Report On Moocs, Netherlands, European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) [Online]. Available at (Accessed 11 April 2020).

Stacey, P. (2013) The Pedagogy Of MOOCs, Musings On The Edtech Frontier, [Online]. Available at (Accessed 12 April 2020).

Veletsianos, G. and Shepherdson, P. (2016) A Systematic Analysis and Synthesis of the Empirical MOOC Literature Published in 2013–2015, The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, vol. 17, no. 2, .

What are MOOCs and are they so boring because they’ve been hijacked by Higher Education?

The question:

Is a MOOC something you would consider implementing at your organisation?

Me, kneejerk response: No way, no one would use it.

Slightly more considered response: Unless they had to. For say a H&S certificate

On further reflection: Some might need training and help on how to access and use it

Ok, hey, since this is about openness I’ll try and keep an open mind and at least read a bit about it before I shut it down. I’m glad I did because I learnt a thing or two, not least, what a MOOC actually is (or can be).

I’ll start with a bit of back-tracking. It’s not exactly fair to say MOOCs have been hijacked by HE.  HE in fact invented them. It’s just that they’ve been through a few phases…

Two categories of MOOC – XMOOC and CMOOC

It was interesting to discover through reading Velestianos & Shepherdson (2015) that there are in fact two different categories of MOOCS. I’ve clearly only ever experienced the xMOOC variety, and have, on every single occasion, left a trail in my wake contributing to the embarrassing statistic that 90% of courses remain uncompleted (p. 201). I just find them totally boring. Yet my repeat efforts have come from an optimism that one day I’ll find something different. Something that leverages the potential provided by our technologies and allowed for mass scale constructivism and participation. I tried within our organisation’s VLE, to create such an ideal. Open courses inviting teachers, trainees and students to share questions, ideas, resources, lists of places to access open source resources…All oblivious to the fact that I was trying to create a cMOOC! Uptake was pathetic. I’ll leave reflections on the reasons for that to another post.

So what exactly are xMOOCs and cMOOCs?

A MOOC, both types, is basically what it says on the tin:

M – massive (theoretically yes as it’s available to everyone on the planet)

O – open (but no to the above because not everyone has the skills, technology or other access requirements to truly meet the ‘open’ criteria)

O – online (yes, can’t be denied although some MOOCs I think can also be available offline)

C – course (can’t be denied on the face of it but some would still argue this point based on traditional academic criteria)

Some forms of openness then could be said to be more open than others.

Although both types of MOOC disrupt conventional thinking about teaching and learning, it could at least partly be back to that question of who holds the power – the user or the creator? Either way, MOOCs have caused shifts in practices by traditional HE organisations that could be viewed either as embracing modern pedagogies, or as a strategic move to supress the shift of balance towards new models of educational delivery.

cMOOCS, according to Velestianos (2016), came first and are based on my ideal of connectivism and participatory constructivism, user generated content with openness as a core value. The type of MOOCs perhaps that Gourlay was so affronted by in my previous post. I can almost sympathise with Gourlay’s frustration towards this model as although I’ve had closer glimpses of the ideal, I am still left immensely frustrated by how frequently opportunities for good modelling are missed or poorly executed. It somehow seems ridiculously hard to attain so apparently simple an ideal.

xMOOCs, on the other hand, are based on cognitivist/ behaviourist learning theories, instructor generated content and assessment outcomes are key and clearly defined. It is the xMOOC model primarily adopted by HE. In simplistic (and cynical) terms, it seems to me that first they put their degree courses online, then they made these mandatory parts of paid courses. A win win for the unis – Ai does the rest of their work. It’s also one means of ensuring that having gone to the effort of creating the courses, the students will bloody well have to complete them, regardless of how dull. At least, that’s how I found them. Page after page of read, watch or listen to this and then answer the questions.

That’s my opinion though, and research seems to point at the cMOOCs being largely guilty for the shocking unfinished stats – 90% fail to complete (Ebben & Murphy 2014 , cited in Valestianos, p.201) . Reasons cited have been many I was however, fascinated to read that within the fairly extensive list of reasons suggested for non-completion, all fault lay with the user and there was no glimmer of a suggestion that the content or learning design itself might be at fault! Reasons given included: the fact that it is free, user skills or knowledge not sufficient, user misunderstanding of instruction, user lack of time, lack of incentive, lack of use of forums and so on (Velestianos, p201).

Implementing MOOCS – what works and what not

The 2018 OpenupEd Trend Report on MOOCs ( provides a great selection of MOOC based short articles looking at practical implementations, each with a different focus. It provides both an excellent toolkit and reference document for anyone wanting to find out more about MOOCS. It’s almost a handbook of considerations for administration or management of MOOCs.

It does also provide useful insights – As well as my first introduction to the term ‘MobiMooc’ John Taxlers piece (p.22) “Community MOOCs – Back to Basics, Back to the Future provided interesting perspective on the debate and tensions surrounding ‘free’ and ‘open’ resources and the evolution of the MOOC. He argues that the MOOC has “moved dramatically away from its innovative and imaginative connectivist origins and that there is an unhelpful tension between ‘free’ and ‘open’ resources.”

He continues

“The idea of the MOOC was born out of experiences with large open distance learning courses in higher education that suggested a new pedagogy, where the numbers and connections would create a new learning paradigm, called connectivism (Siemens 2005). The subsequent story of the MOOC is however not straightforward (Moe 2015). The idea of the MOOC has, in the eyes of many people, become however co-opted by formal institutional perspectives and purposes, and now has been transformed into a highly interactive media-rich experience broadcast by universities on a small number of specialised and dedicated platforms such EdX, Coursera and FutureLearn. The early idealism of the wisdom of the crowd has been replaced by a globally competitive and corporate ethos (Hill & Kumar 2012) but the MOOC in its different incarnations has much to offer learning. This dichotomy has subsequently been expressed as the division between cMOOC and xMOOC respectively, xMOOc being the eXtended MOOC based on traditional university courses, cMOOC being the Connectivist MOOC based on original pedagogy (Ping 2013)”

I can only agree with Traxlers sentiments regarding a return to ‘Community MOOCs and its roots in connectivism’

Exploring Open Pedagogy

I was scandalised that Velestianos and Shepherdson’s narrative placed the blame for the failure of MOOCs, at least in terms of completion, entirely on the user so I decided to look for research on the pedagogies behind MOOCS. Something beyond the broad constructivist/ cognitivist categorisation. My attention was caught and somewhat side-tracked by a document entitled “Student Perceptions of Open Pedagogy: an exploratory Study” (Hilton et al, 2019). Ahh! Finally, here was a document that looked at an aspect of pedagogy but also the user experience, for a change!

The most striking thing about this paper is that it seemed to consider itself fairly innovative for ‘examining the pedagogies connected with use of Open Educational Resources (OERs). This at first surprised me, and then began to irritate me as it was repeated. Not something for the community to be proud of considering the amount of peddling they’ve had from all types of educational organisations but I’ve somehow always felt that HE gives only a perfunctory nod to what really generates learning, just something to theorise about. There doesn’t seem to be any real excuse for the lack of research into the pedagogy behind OERs, especially as we are told (p.276) that the term ‘Open Pedagogy’ was first used in 1973, pre-technology, to describe “less formal discussions and students co-creating the content”.

The paper provides a useful discussion on the wide-ranging definitions that could be applied to the term and cites many of the internet’s familiar instantiations such as forums, video and photo hosting sites, chat spaces, blogs, wiki’s and so on, all as part of a massive open pedagogy. They are all threaded throughout our lives in a form of co-created content. It’s unsurprising then that the findings of this relatively small-scale research, that implemented well, and not entirely instructed by Ai, overall the students reported that they would prefer to attend a course based on open pedagogy over traditional. It made a good read, approaching the question from a different perspective. I also found it useful to find the rare findings on why students DIDN’T like it.

These included things like ‘lack of structure, too much choice, doing the teacher’s job for them…’. All useful if considering implementing an open pedagogy course.


So, to answer the original question: would I recommend implementing a MOOC at my organisation?

I guess I’ve modified my answer somewhat: Yes and no!

No to a stand-alone MOOC. Still no hope of anyone accessing it unless mandated.

Yes as part of a flexible Learning Experience Platform (LXP) where it could become part of a selection of choices of ways to learn a specific topic. It would need to be part of an open pedagogy in order to have any chance for survival…

Other useful links:

The OER Knowledge Cloud:

The Extended Argument for Openness in Education:


Hilton III, J., Wiley, D., Chaffee, R., Darrow, J., Guilmett, J., Harper, S. and Hilton, B. (2019) Student Perceptions of Open Pedagogy: An Exploratory Study, Open Praxis, vol. 11, no. 3, p. 275 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 11 April 2020).

Jansen, D., Brown, M., Read, T., Barcels, E., Sedano, B., Lapworth, A., Aydin, C., Traxler, J., Fueyo, A., Hevia, I., Valesco, S., Creelman, A., Witthaus, G., Friedl, C., Staubitz, T., Karachristos, C., Lazarinis, F., Stavropoulos, E. and Verykios, V. (2018) The 2018 Openuped Trend Report On Moocs, Netherlands, European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) [Online]. Available at (Accessed 11 April 2020).

Veletsianos, G. and Shepherdson, P. (2016) A Systematic Analysis and Synthesis of the Empirical MOOC Literature Published in 2013–2015, The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, vol. 17, no. 2, [Online] Available at: