ETMOOC: Pressure Systems – MOOCs like the Weather


I’m a week into the Educational Technology and Media MOOC (etmooc) experience. This style of experience is difficult to describe. It’s a BIG conversation between hundreds of (1500, or so) folks from all over the globe with similar interests, across multiple channels, in a large and loose structure. The course leverages Twitter, Google+, live sessions, and blog aggregations from participants to expose these conversations to the group. Yeah, 1500 participants mixing across multiple tools. If you don’t have well tuned filters, this can be seriously overwhelming. It’s chaos. But not necessarily in a bad way.

As this experience coalesces, I see people doing many things for the first time. First blogs. First time using Twitter. Sharing different types of simple media production tools and producing video narrative to “make learning visible”. As the experience progresses, folks are beginning to form smaller groups of resonance in this great big space. Through a natural process, smaller spaces form within the bigger space.

This is the most fascinating thing to me about this experience. Observing the social dynamics of a very large group, engaged in a really big conversation is pretty fantastic. Each participant working around a couple of big questions:

  • How are you making your learning visible?
  • How are you contributing to the learning of others?

Here’s the way I am thinking of the MOOC. It’s working like a pressure system, behaving with dynamics not entirely unlike weather patterns. The loose course structure and the promise of learning about how to improve pedagogy with communication technologies create a pressure well, drawing folks in. Participants come from different fields and backgrounds, with different perspectives, and with different levels of commitment and intensity.

Not entirely unlike a weather system, differences in pressures (interests) form eddies. Groups of interest are starting to emerge. I anticipate this will continue through the remainder of the course.

This isn’t my first MOOC but it is my first connectivist MOOC experience. It may also be the first MOOC I finish. Enrolled in a few content MOOCs but combination of linear structure and no real incentive caused an attention dump early on.

I’ve been inspired by the passion of the educators in the group. It’s been a positive experience. Maybe I’ll make it through this one. Time will tell.

2 thoughts on “ETMOOC: Pressure Systems – MOOCs like the Weather”

  1. Most traditional MOOCs (which seems a strange thing to say since they haven’t been around far that long), are more or less a techno-version of a correspondance course, the same tired formula that University of Phoenix has followed to build up their online education dominance. And like many traditional correspondance programs, the certificates, degrees, and other achievements through them seem to be more susceptible to questioning than traditional face to face instructional settings, at least as far as entry level positions are concerned.

    This is the second constructive-based MOOC that I’ve enrolled in, having completed several rounds of DS106 as a completely de-centralized MOOC that focuses first on building community; the learning comes naturally after the fact.

    I like your weather analogy, as if we continue to feed the storm then we should have a giant super-storm of creativity and learning happening by the end of the course.

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