A short reading list for continuing #edcmooc

Quite a few of us participating in the MOOC have been wondering what next (see Jen’s blog post), so I thought it might be useful to share a few suggestions for further and future reading according to the themes we’ve been looking at. In particular, what writing is out there which brings together popular culture, posthumanism and education in ways which resonate with what we’ve been doing in the latter half of the MOOC?

For me, some of the best writing on posthumanism emerges in the analysis of popular culture, from Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein (discussed by Elaine Graham, 2002, here) to Wolfe’s 1952 Limbo (see N K Hayles’ discussion in How We Became Posthuman, 1999) and Byrne and Eno’s 2006 re-release of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (which Cary Wolfe, 2010, talks about in his book). Such work brings pressure to bear on the very distinction between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, ‘science’ and ‘art’ – yet another set of binaries we’ve negotiated around at several points over the last few weeks – as it traces our various attempts to make sense of scientific incursions on ‘the human’, while at the same time mapping multiple possible futures for those same scientific trajectories.

So there’s some great recent work which reads education and posthumanism alongside popular culture, showing how rich such an approach can be. Helena Pedersen’s (2010) meditation on posthumanist theory,  educational philosophy and animal studies via a reading of Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is one cracking example. Another is Gough’s 2004 proposal for a posthuman pedagogy using Mayakovsky’s Cyberantics as exemplar and model (see the paper outline here); yet another is Lewis and Khan’s working through of the notion of ‘exopedagogy’ (2010), which arrives at a proposition for posthumanism in education via readings of culture from Victor the ‘wolf boy’ to David Icke’s reptoid aliens and ‘fairy faith’ subcultures.

I’d recommend all of these as good starting points for going further. I’m afraid they’re all books or closed articles but hopefully the links above will help in making a judgement about whether it’s worth investing…

Sian Bayne
@sbayne

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Shoring the fragments of #edcmooc

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Eleni Zazani’s competition entry

This week I had to try to pull together a position, a wide view, of what’s been happening on the EDC MOOC, in order to present at a symposium on ‘Disrupting Higher Education’ in Dublin (blogged here by Eoin O’Dell). It was hard. In the end, the best way I could find to do it, was by piecing together fragments, snippets from the work of the teaching team and of the participants, to build a picture of what we’ve achieved over the last few weeks, and the questions which remain unanswered. The Prezi I made of this is viewable here.

I’d like to summarise roughly what I see as being the gains we’ve made, and what I was trying to convey in this presentation. First, we’ve made a start on an important project: we’ve created a Coursera MOOC with a particular ethos and design, and we now have some data to work with in thinking about how we refine that, and whether our own strand of higher education has a future – disrupted or otherwise – with this kind of MOOC pedagogy.

We’ve also seen that the personal learning networks and communities being formed for some participants through the MOOC have been intense, enriching and deeply motivating. That is something of great value. The challenge here, of course, is in considering what happens to the participants who wanted networks, but have not been able to make them, or have not found them. As Jeremy said in his post this week, we can’t make a MOOC work for everyone, not at this scale. But we still have a responsibility to consider what participation and inclusion means in a teaching event like this, and do our best to make these things happen for as high a proportion of learners as we can.

Then, we’ve seen this great burst of multimodal creativity, innovation, sharing and making, as Jen highlighted in her post. For me this is a major achievement: if we can begin to see the MOOC as a (relatively) low-stakes space where experiments in representation and scholarly ‘writing’ can be nurtured, that will be a major gain and potentially a big contribution to the debate around digital academic literacy.

For me one of the biggest and most difficult questions remaining is how we think about the nature and value of ‘teacherliness’ online, where we are working in courses in which we started with a 0.0001 teacher:student ratio (thanks Hamish Macleod! Christine blogged about this too). How do we navigate a pathway somewhere between what seem to be the two main options for the MOOC teacher currently: celebrity professor or automaton? The subject of another blog post perhaps. 

Sian Bayne
@sianbayne

MOOC day: the best-laid schemes #edcmooc

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Thanks to cathleen_nardi for this image – her entry for the week 3 competition. Click to favourite this and others!

I mentioned course development and how that worked for us in terms of time commitment in an earlier post (How long did it take you?). I thought at this point it might be useful to follow this up by saying a few things about how we organise our teaching time on this MOOC – I get the sense a few of our participants are curious about this. Partly this is prompted by MB Wall’s question in the forums about ‘instructor compensation’ and how that’s managed in our case. As Jen made clear in her response, Hamish, Christine, Jen and myself are all full-time academic staff (faculty) here at the University of Edinburgh. Jeremy is a full-time PhD student who is researching MOOCs and open education. We all teach on the MSc in Digital Education, and all conduct research in various aspects of education and the digital, so we’re doing our MOOC teaching alongside multiple other tasks. The course does not employ any teaching assistants, though some of our Masters students are contributing to the discussions.

The way we’ve organised ourselves since the MOOC opened, is by each having ‘MOOC day’ – a working day on which we take responsibility for monitoring the discussion forums, and making the blog post here. We’ve also divided up responsibility for each weekly announcement, and seeding the discussion forum with a few questions – we take a week each. This works neatly as there are five of us!

However, that’s not to say this tidy division is absolute – we are all monitoring the twitter feed and the blog posts every day (including weekends and evenings), and we are all dipping into the discussion forums most days too (though we aren’t systematically looking at the student created social spaces – Facebook, G+ and so on). We’re doing this on an ad-hoc basis, but because we are a well-established team and we know how each other works, we feel fairly confident that our coverage of media is reasonably good. However, we know that “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley” (see here for translation!) so we’re talking regularly to each other about how things are progressing and whether we need to be adapting what we do.

Sian Bayne
@sbayne

 

Content by ‘devious’ means

I wanted to post something today on the content of EDC MOOC, partly in response to Jeremy’s earlier post on how it’s easy to let questions of process (and ‘correctness’) dominate our discussions about course design and partly in response to Dave Cormier’s mention of EDC in his interesting post on MOOC content curation.

Dave’s post draws attention to what was perhaps the biggest issue for us in making EDC MOOC – the need to only use open access materials, and ones that were all free of copyright restrictions. This was a hard call in a few ways. We really wanted to use clips from some of the movie ‘classics’ like The Matrix, 2001 and so on, but we were advised that this wasn’t on, even if they were freely available on YouTube, simply because their copyright status was likely to be compromised. As it happened, a lot of the freely available shorts were actually better for our purposes (and in many cases, just…better), so this wasn’t such a big issue.

Of more significance was the fact that we couldn’t draw on any of the literature published in ‘closed’ sources like journal articles and book chapters. This was a big deal for us because, while we are used to building online courses, we’ve only ever done so with the very rich resources of the University of Edinburgh’s digital library available to us. Sourcing quality academic work, at the right level, without access to closed journals was a real challenge. We’re happy with what we have, but the curation certainly wasn’t easy. For the publishers who are on EDC MOOC (and we know there are some) the message is that we need free stuff for our MOOCs : ) As Dave’s post makes clear there are licensing issues here, but the potential reputational gain for authors whose work is used on MOOCs is significant, and that carries benefits – sales among others.

Overall, the work of making the MOOC felt to us like curation but perhaps a little more opportunistic than that term implies. Something like bricolage –  working with what is at hand, and by ‘devious means compared to those of a craftsman’ (this from Claude Lévi-Strauss (1966) The Savage Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 16–17). I think we’re generally happy with that!

Sian Bayne
@sbayne

Some more interesting things for EDC MOOCers

We now have 42,570 participants, 12,000 of these have been active over the past week.

There are 839 threads in the discussion forums, 5467 posts, 3088 comments on posts and 82113 views of posts,

So something like this, not quite the 90–9–1 principle but not far off:

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And thanks to our colleague Anne-Marie Scott, we now have an idea where all the bloggers are coming from. She’s mapped the locations of all the blogs being pulled into the EDC News feed (thanks Anne-Marie):

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Sian Bayne
@sbayne

Two things that are interesting

The Coursera stats today tell us that of 41,622 enrolees on our MOOC, to date 16,963 have been active. That seems relatively high, particularly since we haven’t yet had the weekend, when it seems likely many people might begin their studies.

And now, thanks to the sterling ‘University of Edinburgh MOOCs survey‘ made by Amy Woodgate, we have a clearer idea of where our students are coming from, geographically at least. Austin Tate in the School of Informatics has made a nice visual of this:

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Sian Bayne
@sbayne

“So, how long did it take you?”

A few people have been asking how long it took to put this MOOC together, perhaps wondering whether it would be a good thing to offer future MOOCs of their own. So, for anyone out there with an eye to their workload, my estimate would be that it was between 30-40 days of academic staff time for development, spread between five of us. That doesn’t take into account the work of our colleagues in Information Services who were supporting the MOOCs, and it’s within the context of a relatively unusual xMOOC model: one where open access content was sourced and pieced together into a curriculum, rather than one in which ‘talking head’ videos were recorded and mounted. It also doesn’t take into account time spent monitoring and responding to the MOOC since launch: we’ll have to report back on that one but anecdotally all the Edinburgh MOOC teams seem to be spending quite a lot of time online at the moment…. Is this sustainable? We don’t know – but the excitement and invigoration we’re getting from doing this very new thing is currently keeping us hooked.

Sian Bayne
@sbayne

“Chill, it’s a MOOC!”

This was one of the comments in the course today for which, almost inevitably, I have now lost the reference in the tidal wave of text that is EDC MOOC. However, for me it’s a useful response to one of themes that has been quite prominent in the course discussions so far: the sense that participants have of being simply overwhelmed by the quantity of postings, opinions, tweets, blog posts, Facebook exchanges, G+ posts and so on being generated by the course.

Some participants find this frustrating – they are looking to the course teaching team to structure the discussion boards, to group students, to regulate in the way we might regulate a ‘normal’ accredited course. This can be done with cohorts of 20 online students; it can’t with a cohort of 40,000 and a platform with rather basic functionality.

Others like the relative lack of structure – the freedom to roam, to do the readings (or not) at will, to forge their own connections and make their own study groups via their blogs, or in one of the many other social environments being used, or in a light-touch way through the #edcmooc hashtag on Twitter.

There has been a lot of generous sharing of personal strategies for how to be part of the MOOC in a meaningful yet manageable way. Here’s a summary of what people are saying:

  • Read selectively: no need to be comprehensive here
  • Choose one or two media streams only: impossible to be everywhere at once
  • Let go of the notion of ‘being on top of things’ – this is also impossible – instead, enjoy the serendipity of the random encounter
  • Relax, select, investigate, think, write when it makes sense to write, and write in a space that you enjoy
  • Forget traditional online teaching methods: this course has a teacher:student ratio of 1:8000

These points feel to me a bit like a starting point for thinking about what it means to ‘do’ MOOC pedagogy – the strategies our MOOCers are developing are already helping me to re-think what it means to teach.

Sian Bayne
@sbayne