Wednesday, 20 May 2015

MOOCs, distribution and learning

(Mak, 2011)
I read a very interesting post from Tom Staunton today about MOOCs, which led me to a few new resources online.

Firstly, I got exposed to some short clips by Dave Cormier on MOOCs, from 2010. While I agree with quite a bit of what Dave had to say in this you tube video post, I don't agree with it all.

In particular I don't agree with Dave's ideas on distribution: that the ideas contained in MOOCs are widely distributed. In fact, I have tended to find that the ideas were closely clustered on each MOOC site... and that those sites are often diabolically poorly organised. I know that Downes (2014) says that MOOCs' ideas are distributed: it is just that in my view, I don't think that this actually happens in practice.

In fact, so hard was it to find items and ideas on one course I took, that I found (a) a Google search outside the site was more useful than the native MOOC site search engine (b) that borrowing items from my own institute's library was faster than trying to find items on the MOOC site, and (c) that asking other students how they had found materials found most of the rest of the "missing" items. I posted questions on that course looking for the key learning materials two years ago. No one has ever answered.

So even if stuff is all on one site, it is hard to find. 

Considering the 'chat' that occurred on the MOOCs I have attended, I have felt like a lone voice in the wilderness. I have made many contributions but have rarely has anyone come back to me. I have reposted, linked, pinned and blogged, to no avail.

Dave also talked about items being tagged, but how do you find a tag? Does anyone really understand the logic of another's tags? I can see another's logic if they explain it to me, but my ideas will be just as obscure to them without reciprocal personal guidance. Additionally most of us are also shockingly incomplete when prepping tags; we under-tag. So we can't necessarily find things, whether they are on the site or not.

If there is one thing that is guaranteed to brass people off, it is not being able to find things easily. We have become steadily more impatient with the net, and most of us won't spend more than a minute looking for something: in fact, 55% of us will spend no longer than 15 seconds looking (Soksey, 2014). So I think that's a big "No" to widely distributed. 

One of the key things on MOOCs that MUST be easy to find are the learning materials themselves. You want finding these to be a total no-brainer. However, many MOOCs are problematic because things are stashed all over the place. That is what gives Udemy its edge: there is a clear path for the user to find their way through the materials. Have a crack at a Udemy MOOC straight after you have done a Coursera one, and you will understand the sigh of relief you give as a learner :-)

Which led me to my second discovery: or, more accurately, re-discovery. This reminded me that there is a course that prospective MOOC writers can take to develop their course materials. It is online here, and reading about MOOCs reminded me that I still need to make time to take the course. Nothing like a bit of honing of what we do (Banfield, 2015).

And thirdly, I found a new ebook. There is an open source book on digital learning by Tony Bates. This appears to be a great resource, and even has a short chapter on MOOCs, which readers might find interesting. Tony discusses MOOC varieties, such as xMOOCs (planned online learning events mirroring formal classes) and cMOOCs (networked happenstance learner-driven learning).


  • Banfield, Jerry (2015). How I Teach Full Time on Udemy and Created 20+ Udemy Courses. Retrieved 20 May 2015 from 
  • Bates, Tony (2015). Teaching in a Digital Age. Retrieved 20 May 2015 from
  • Bates, Tony (2014). What is a MOOC. Retrieved 20 May 2015 from
  • Cormier, Dave (2010). What is a MOOC? Retrieved 20 May 2015 from
  • Downes, Stephen (2014). Slideshare: The MOOC of One. Retrieved 20 May 2015 from
  • Mak, Sui Fai John (2011). #CCK11 Network patterns, social networks and their impact on institutions. Retrieved 20 May 2015 from
  • Moksey, Ginny (2014). 55% of Visitors Spend Fewer Than 15 Seconds on Your Website. Should You Care? Retrieved 20 May 2015 from
  • Staunton, Tom (2015). Dave Cormier on Networked Learning. Retrieved 20 May 2015 from

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