‘Maybe it’s working’: #edcmooc in Week 2


I’ve noticed some people have been making comments suggesting that they’re learning something. It’s as though they have passed through  a ‘liminal state’ (Perkins, 2006) and have found a route to help them come out the other side.  Here are a few examples from the forums:

‘I have thought more about technology in our world and on-line ed in the past week than I have in the last year. Maybe its working.’ – Matthew Gorek

‘There are enough “aha’s” to sustain me and that is what I think learning is about.’ Karen Hughes

‘I think what I am just beginning to “see” is what I have been preaching for years – constructivism! ‘ – Cheryl Doran

As someone who tends towards optimism, I find this very encouraging.  However, I am conscious that with a class of 42,000, it is possible to find evidence to support any of a range of responses to what’s going on, so I’m cautious about making strong claims.  Instead, I thought it would be useful to reflect a little on this idea of liminality, as it seems relevant both to Week 2 as a time when students may feel lost in a mass of content, and to our themes of a potential digital future that might be bewildering and troublesome.  The word ‘liminal’ relates to thresholds: a metaphor of crossing and entering new territory.  The liminal state – a condition where the person is between the old way of being and the new – can be both exhilarating and uncomfortable and may mean abandoning cherished ways of doing things.  I’ve also seen a fair amount of evidence in the forums of concern for loss of well-established educational practices.

Our MOOC may then be stimulating a liminal state for many students and perhaps ultimately leading to a way of thinking about digital culture that was previously unavailable.   It could also be argued that MOOC itself is a ‘threshold concept’: transformative, troublesome, integrative, bounded, discursive and reconstitutive.  (This isn’t a description of individual MOOCs – just the concept MOOC.)  If you’re interested in threshold concepts, the link takes you to a University College London site that summarises and links to many more sources.

Because I’m an optimist, I’m hoping that many people will feel they are learning.  I know from years of my own student experience that feeling stuck and perplexed can often be a sign that it’s about to happen.

Perkins, D. (2006)  The underlying game: troublesome knowledge and threshold conceptions. In E. Meyer & R. Land (Eds.), Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge. London: Routledge.

Christine Sinclair


7 thoughts on “‘Maybe it’s working’: #edcmooc in Week 2

  1. I really have learned new concepts and I have seen things since another point of view, but sometimes I think is a lot of information or I have a few time, he he he. Anyway, it’s a great course!!!

  2. I refer back to your course stats to get an insight here…. my current musings focus on the 89:10:1 internet rule (or which-ever version you like). This rule relates to ‘marketing engagement’ , and is not a good benchmark for evaluation of educational engagement of enrolled students. If you have only 1% producing content, and 10% involved at lesser level, what does that say for the claim that the course is generating learning because of the constructivist or connectivist approach? Leads me to ask what sort of learning style the current MOOCers lean to, a question that you might ask of we students? or that Coursera might be able to answer given its penchant for collecting stats? For myself, I have found two weeks of this course challenging, not to say exciting, (indeed I have experienced the liminal state), but also aggravating as I cannot find shortcuts to learning, or insights from your personal experience and it is frustrating to have to wade through lots of comment searching for a few pearls: it is the pearls, shortcuts and insights i really want. From a practical point of view I prefer more structured approaches because i don’t usually have space in my life for the personal indulgence.

    I admire what you are doing and hope you will continue to learn and teach well. I’m a fan.

  3. interesting points sandra. ..esp at to which learning style moocers lean to. i was interested to get only one taker for a skype chat session. and even then it took place as a text chat! bit frustrating for a verbal type like me

  4. This may sound pollyannaish, but observing and participating in this course has made me hopeful about the future of education the ‘broader’ future of society and world culture. It’s made me more optimistic despite the fact that I’ve been exposed to more dystopian stories of human society in the past two weeks than I thought I could stand. Perhaps this optimism is inspired by two things.
    1.) The sheer amount of information and insight that I’ve received from both observing & participating in this course, from people of different cultures, and areas of the globe. If this is the future of sharing in education even in it’s infancy, then there’s a lot to look forward to
    2.) The caliber of insights shared among the students. There’s a popular culture theme that seems to run strong, especially here in the US that ‘the world is getting dumber.’ Take for example, dystopian themes a la “Idiocracy,” “People of Walmart” & “Honey Boo Boo.”) In contrast in the #edcmooc, it’s very nice to see hundreds if not thousands of people expressing well-thought objective opinions about what they watch and read. More, I see from reading a number of the blogs of class participates, that the thoughts shared here help feed substantial discussion and reflection on how technology is shaping and affecting us.

    In short, definitely I feel that I’m learning a lot not just from the course content but from the other learners.

  5. I’m pleased that others are sharing my own “pollyannaish” tendencies! I think exposure is the key word here. It’s not enough by itself, but unless we’re exposed to new ideas deliberately (as well as serendipitously) then we’ll never be in a position to cross certain thresholds. But the response to that exposure – whether it’s filtering, sifting, challenging, integrating – has to be down to us, individually and collectively. Teachers do have responsibility here in helping to shape the experience. But the MOOC provides increased opportunities for so much additional exposure – and that certainly seems to have happened here.

  6. Pingback: “This river of learning is not unbounded” – educational openings | Teaching 'E-learning and Digital Cultures'

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s