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I’ve joined another MOOC. Thats nice . . . What’s a MOOC?

January 26, 2012

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. A MOOC can accommodate a large number of individuals (thousands, in some cases), and they are open to anyone who wants to participate. The weekly plan, resources, live sessions and recordings are available for anyone to access online, and they are focused on a particular area of study. You don’t have to pay any fees, unless you want to gain a formal credit for the course through the supporting academic institution. I’ve just registered for a MOOC titled “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2012” (CCK12). Information about the course, including a more complete explanation of MOOCs, can be found on the course website. The hour-long live sessions for this 12-week course are scheduled for Thursdays at 8:00 pm (Eastern time). In preparation, I’ve watched the videos (one is embedded below) and am going through the readings that have been uploaded for week #1 and week #2.

Video: “What’s a MOOC?” Written and Narrated by Dave Cormier, video by Neal Gillis, CC-BY 2010

Why participate in a MOOC if you are not working towards a qualification and don’t need the credit? Well, you might be an educator investigating innovative approaches to learning, an administrator who wants to transform institutional structures, or a lifelong learner who is simply interested in the subject and who wishes to engage in conversations with other interested people. You can sample material and sessions that suit your particular interest and schedule, or you can immerse yourself by attending all the sessions, absorbing the resources, following discussions on Twitter, and writing, reading, and commenting on blog posts. You decide on the level of engagement that suits you. Since MOOCs are conducted entirely online, you are visible to the extent that you take part in the live sessions and post material (usually through a blog or Twitter feed). By adding a tag (a shortened version of the course name, e.g.: “#CCK12”) to published material, relevant comments and resources can be easily found, collected, and distributed in list form to course participants. The facilitators arrange for guest speakers and provide useful resources, but the connections that the MOOC model facilitates (connecting learners and resources, learners and facilitators, and learners and other learners) opens up channels and conversations that can take you to places that you never thought you would go, and the journey doesn’t need to stop when the course is over.

I’ve participated to varying degrees in a few MOOCs over the past year, and, for me, they have been well worth the time and effort. I’ve learned that what you gain from these courses is directly proportional to what you contribute. It’s a bit like a face-to-face conversation – if you say little or nothing, you are less likely to feel present or engaged, and what you hear is less likely to seem relavent or interesting.

If you think you might be interested, I suggest that you simply register for one and give it a try. The facilitators (and more experienced participants) are patient and helpful. You will find that your presence, and your contributions, will be appreciated. As well as the “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2012” MOOC, there are others that may interest you. Here are a few that I’ve discovered:

Learning and Knowledge Analytics (I believe this course is also starting this week).

#Change11: Education, Learning, and Technology (currently in week 17, this course finishes in May 2012).

#DS106: Digital Storytelling (started earlier this month – the related radio show is worth a listen).

#EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education (finished at end of 2011, but will likely be run again in 2012). This course may not be “Massive”, but it is certainly “Open”.

#CMC11: Creativity and Multicultural Communication (finished at the end of 2011, likely to continue in some form; smaller “class” than the other Open courses I took part in).

I had plans to finish several draft posts about my experience in these MOOCs, but I had trouble pulling myself out of conversations that were taking part in other blogs and in various other nooks and crannies online where people met. Hopefully, I’ll do better with #CCK12.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2012 1:55 pm

    Hi Mark,

    I’m trying to make everyone’s life easier so that our community can share and discuss ideas around a hub. I’m donating the use of my server to host a forum for all Change MOOC participants. I’ve also added a site wide ATOM feed to the Change MOOC aggregator. The forum’s here and all MOOCers are welcome to join:

    All the best,


    • January 27, 2012 10:08 am


      I’m not convinced that I would need a forum for the change mooc – but I wanted to give it a try – and I didn’t pass the confirmation code … ( I have to register for the forum??)

      I appreciate your list of MOOCs – as I’m already at the egde of too much work, too much learning, too much trainings, I admire persons who have an easy handling with MOOCs as you 🙂

      • Mark McGuire permalink
        January 27, 2012 10:46 pm

        Hi jupidiu

        Yes, too much work – I bet most of us are gluttons for it. Any sense of ease is entirely misleading. I am a slow reader and, although I like writing, I am a slow writer as well. I’m the kind of person who still puts commas in my email messages (which shows how ill at ease I can be with new forms of communication). I don’t attend many live MOOC sessions, and I certainly don’t try to read everything. I prefer to look at a few things, but to look (and thing) hard. Skimming and then diving in. I don’t catch many fish, but I still end up with more than I can digest.


    • Mark McGuire permalink
      January 27, 2012 10:38 pm

      Hi Matt

      I’ve registered for the forums and will try them. It may be just the shared communication space that we need. Blogs are like individual homes. Some conversations are most useful when they are held more publicly, in a community hall. Let’s see what happens . . .



  2. January 27, 2012 7:55 am

    Hi Mark – enjoyed your reflections (particularly the 2nd paragraph). Our intent with these courses is to create an infrastructure for interaction on which others can build their own learning. Flexibility is key…which means we encourage individuals to create what they think is missing in our organization (i.e. as Matt has done with the forums).

    And you’re absolutely right – the journey doesn’t (need to) stop when the course is over…

    • Mark McGuire permalink
      January 27, 2012 10:35 pm

      Hi George

      Thanks for stopping by. The flexibility is a strong point for me (a “non-credit” participant), but there seems to be enough structure and support for anyone who is doing the course for credit and wants to do well.

      I just registered for the Forums that Matt set up – it seems very well organized. Knowing where to look for others, and where to leave comments can be difficult when there are so many communication spaces to use. This an interesting (urban) planning problem. Second Life and Active Worlds both suffered from low density urban sprawl. Organic approaches can work well with a small number of participants and territory (mediaeval towns) but can be a problem on a larger scale (Los Angeles). It would be interesting to plot where MOOCers go to chat or leave messages. I wonder what the tracings would tell us?


  3. January 28, 2012 3:03 am

    Thanks, Mark, great to see you in #CCK12 as well. Something I read about #ds106 the other day said “No I’m sorries”. I take that to mean what you said above (with which I wholeheartedly agree) that we get as much into these moocs as we put into them. No apologies necessary for how much or how little one participates. 🙂

    I like the analogy to urban density and the fact that you still appreciate good grammar and commas. I was also thinking about the difference between dropping an anchor (a traditional classroom) and fly fishing in a stream (a mooc). Keep well and see around our various mooc towns. 🙂

    • Mark McGuire permalink
      January 28, 2012 8:27 pm

      Hi Brainy

      Dropping an anchor v.s. fly fishing is a helpful image. Imagine that we are wading through different MOOCs that are intertwined like a braided river. We pay close attention to the rippling surfaces, trying to make out what lies beneath, while also noticing the wind, passing clouds, insects, an occasional barking dog, and, in the distance, the piercing sound of an alarm on some idiot’s car. An ever-changing conversation in a large, open landscape (



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