Friday, February 8, 2013

The Rhizomagic of MOOCs: an #ETMOOC Kind of Story

I have joined #ETMOOC late, but I'm glad that I joined. This week we are sharing stories, and I've chosen two. The first is a six-word tale with image (I found the image Nature Adapting to Man on Weird Twist).

The second tale is a repeat of something that has happened with every MOOC I've joined so far, but it's still a fine story. So grab a beer or coffee, pull your chairs in close, and let me tell you what happened to me this past week.

I started digging into the ETMOOC website to orient myself into what is going on. I'm interested in educational technology and MOOCs, so I was confident that I would find something worth following. Boy, did I.

The first thing I discovered was that I had again missed Dave Cormier's talk about rhizomatic education. This is a great disappointment for me as I am also exploring the life of the knowmad, and I think Cormier has some genuine insights. Fortunately, I followed a link to the recorded archive of the talk, and somewhere along the way, I found a link to Christina Hendricks' wonderful post Etmooc: Rhizomatic Learning–A Worry And A Question on her blog You're the Teacher. That's when the rhizomagic started.

I sat in on a wonderful campfire conversation about the relative merits of rhizomatic learning. Christina suggested some initial attraction for the concept, but she also had some real reservations. Both her interests and concerns were shared by Brendan Murphy, Caleb Kelly, Claire Thompson and others. To my mind, what they were saying was not nearly so important as what they were doing: collecting themselves together to discuss an issue important to all of them, engaging in the very best of rhizomatic learning, and I could join in.

For me, this is the beating heart magic of rhizomatic MOOCs: they enable people to connect to a topic and to each other to explore that topic. It's happened to me every time I've engaged a MOOC, and I deeply appreciate reliable magic.

Recognizing the magic, however, does not mean that I am ignoring the issues with MOOCs and other forms of rhizomatic learning. The catastrophic failure of the Georgia Tech MOOC this past week and the nagging problems with assessment and certification demonstrate that we have not worked out all the bugs. Actually, I don't think we will ever work out all the bugs before MOOCs have morphed into something else, the next over-hyped big thing. But I am absolutely convinced that we are learning to use educational technologies to accomplish important goals and that what we learn will change what we do. I intend to enjoy the ride.


  1. Hi Keith:

    Great point that what was most important was that we were all discussing together. And the discussion continues!

    This is the first MOOC I've really done (etmooc), though I did a little dabbling in an "xMOOC" a month or so ago. The two are very different--in a connectivist MOOC like etmooc, we don't have to worry about things like assessment, and it won't have the same problems as the course that had to be cancelled because that one was dogged by problems related to trying to put people into small groups (among other things). In etmooc, the small groups form organically, as people find others they want to connect with and engage in conversations. I must say I really like this format for a MOOC--much more open, encouraging people to connect more than anything else. Though of course, I do appreciate the need for more content-focused MOOCs (the xMOOC model) for some things. For instance, I signed up for a Coursera course on statistics that will start in a couple of months, because I need to learn statistics in order to do my research on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning well. There, I'll mostly be interested in learning concepts and practices, and if connections are made, then all the better. I kind of think less rhizomagic (great word!) will happen in that course than in etmooc, but perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised to find otherwise.

    I LOVE this photo and 6 word story, by the way! Where is the photo from?

  2. Thanks for reading, Christina. I agree that cMOOCs are more open, but I'm hopeful that xMOOCs will develop that way. I'm convinced they will if the right people hijack them—in other words, if enough cMOOC people sign-up and use them to make rhizomagic happen. MOOCs of all stripes are still figuring out what they are. It's a great open experiment and fun to be a part of.

    As far as the photo, I don't know where I got it. I tend to download interesting pix as I come across them and then use them for wallpaper. I'm not so good at tracking sources. Poor scholarship, I know. Sorry.

  3. Good point about xMOOCs becoming more connected and rhizomatic if the people involved make them so. Hadn't thought of that. Still, there is that focus on content, and learning specific things that one can then be tested on, that makes them different from some cMOOCs. Agree that it's fun to be part of this emerging experiment!

    Too bad you don't know where the photo came from! we'll probably cover this in etmooc later, but I do think it's important to credit photos & photographers (and one must do so if it's Creative Commons licensed). href="">Here's a site I found useful for attributing works that are creative commons licensed.