Lisa’s CCK08 Wordpress Blog

November 29, 2008

Course Recommendations: Revamping a MOOC

Filed under: Week 12 — Lisa M Lane @ 7:51 am

Having been invited to do so by both George Siemens and Tom Whyte, I here note changes I would make if I were teaching this class (or a class like it) in future. This builds on my previous critique-y posts Environmental Engineering and Course Critique (week 9) and Network Control via Grades (week 5). Except for the first one, they are about form rather than content.

Get historical

I am still struggling with taking a traditionalist, conservative role in my concerns about basing so much of our study in trends that only emerged within this generation.

I think for the future, it would be good to see some consideration of the larger view, the context that goes back beyond the last 20 years and beyond the formal field of educational research. I would have liked a much larger perspective into which I could fit contemporary theories of teaching and learning. Since I had to develop it myself, it seemed I was often jumping up and down saying “that’s not new!”

Redistribute the assigned workload

I would redistribute and revise the marking scheme. Putting 90% of the graded items into the last few weeks left too much floating time at the beginning of the class, and far too much work at the end, which didn’t allow for proper feedback along the way. Participation should be worth far more, and deterministic assignments (CMap, “papers”) far less. Most of the grade should be based on the overall blogging, if that is the central learning repository being tracked for each student (see Get Visual, below).

Improve participation in synchronous meetings

Set at least one synchronous weekly meeting as fully participatory.
Students should be able to “present” their ideas and perspectives to others at the synchronous meetings as part of the “presentation”. Student participation needed to be built in, not treated as a sideline/backchat/commenting thing. If the idea is that the teachers are learners too, then asking questions of them is not enough.

Create specific topics or questions, not just the topic of the week.
A set topic or question would level the field, with the instructor acting only as a guide. Students who took trouble to arrange time to be present would know what would be discussed, be more prepared, and feel a responsibility to participate.

Get visual

No blank screens
Jeff’s multiple webcams using MeBeam, evident in a couple of UStream sessions, could have been used to bring in groups of students, who volunteer in advance to share their ideas. For more free-wheeling discussions in Elluminate, students could collectively record main ideas on the whiteboard. That space, like the chat, should be used (as Nancy White did so effectively). It would even be possible to show one of the instructor’s “talking head” videos right in Elluminate, and discuss during and after.

Use of images should be encouraged.
Things were way text heavy everywhere, even on the blogs. The metaphors for connectivism could be pictures rather than text and stories. And no, a diagram with connected text boxes doesn’t count.

Determine the pedagogical goal for each element of the course

Clear objectives are needed for the pre-set elements of the class: the Moodle forum, course wiki, connectivism blog, Google groups, etc. Discussion should take place about what types of content might be appropriate for the Moodle forum vs SL vs blogs. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each for forming community, sharing information, expressing individual ideas? There are norms already for these tools, developed collectively by those who regularly use them, but people don’t necessarily know these trends. Perhaps a list of suggested options by usage could be developed:

  • posting reflections on course reading = blog
  • asking questions of the instructors = forum 1
  • arranging times and places to meet elsewhere = forum 2
  • presenting or listening at live, instructor-led meeting on particular topics or questions = Elluminate
  • tracking colleagues’ blogs = rss
  • real time meeting with colleagues but not instructors = SL or elsewhere


Encourage a dynamic course wiki

Allow student access to change the main wiki, and have doing so be an expectation.
The course should grow organically. Instructors mark out the planting beds, and plant a few of the basic items (readings, assignments). Space could be made for adding other “found” readings each week, and inserting links to various discussions or other content.

Keep up with posting correct links and times for synchronous sessions.

Adapt the concept of The Daily

Limit it to what’s up for that week, and the RSS feeds from student blogs. No commentary or “special” posts noted.

Make assigned readings (and more) interactive

The basic readings are a focus, so they could be treated as such. Each could be placed in the Moodle forum as a place for focused discussion. If one didn’t want to put the talking head videos only in Elluminate, they could also be inside a forum. (In Moodle, I like the “single simple discussion” format for this, with the media item as the first post.) This provides an element of immediacy to content responses.

The approach used for CCK08 could be applied to many different types of classes. I could do everything I’ve suggested above and create a perfectly good history course! This class has provided an excellent model to build upon and, interestingly enough, the further application of connectivist tools is what can make it work even better.



  1. Hi Lisa – I agree with everything you have written here – but that’s with my ‘teacher’ hat on. Isn’t that the dilemma here? Basically a course has been created around something (connectivism, networks) that really shouldn’t be working in any way like a traditional course. (Ariel expresses this much better than me.) I think everything you have written supports good teaching on a traditional course.

    For me the thinking needs to be around how to be more true to the principles of connectivism and – with my limited understanding – I see these as negotiated curriculum, autonomy of the learner, choice for the learner, change in role for the teacher to a ‘player’ in a flat learning structure (not quite sure how this would work yet; I’m still thinking about it), learning through a distributed network rather than in groups, etc. This would really test the principles of connectivism (hope I have understood this correctly!!!).

    But what has been interesting on this course – about connectivism – is that people don’t really seem to want this. They want groups and communities, a sense of belonging, joint meaning making, a ‘pat on the back’ from the teachers, recognition, reciprocity, nurturing, supporting. I think there is evidence in this course to support this thinking, but please argue if you think not. This course has unleashed a huge amount of emotion. It has not been about a detached ‘reasoned’ network.

    I have also jumped up and down on this course saying “that’s not new!” and have one or two posts on my blog that say this, particularly early on. But again – that was with my ‘teacher hat’ on. To do away with the teacher, as we understand ‘teacher’ would be new. I’m not sure that I want to go down this route. My whole career has been in trying to develop as a teacher, so it’s a lot to let go of. I’m also not absolutely sure that the world would be a better place without teachers as we know them, but I’m thinking about it. I certainly believe in learner autonomy and have done for a while. I would also like to see a learner be able to negotiate their own curriculum, have a hand in determining their own assessment and be competent in exploiting all the technologies that are available to make their own choices in how they want to learn and the direction in which they want to go. But maybe this is all a bit of a dream at the moment. Change takes time and mostly happens in small steps. But this course has the opportunity, if it can convince the University of Mannitoba, to really stick to the principles of connectivism.

    Gosh – got carried away there. Will have to return to my own blog!

    What a fantastic contribution you have made to this course Lisa. I haven’t been able to keep up with you, but have definitely kept tabs on you and hope to continue to do so! Thanks


    Comment by jennymackness — November 29, 2008 @ 10:14 am

  2. > Limit it to what’s up for that week, and the RSS feeds from student blogs. No commentary or “special” posts noted.

    Why? I don’t see the value in shutting the instructors up.

    Comment by Stephen Downes — November 29, 2008 @ 10:23 am

  3. Lisa,
    I’m now linked to your feed and have been reading through your posts. I agree with Jenny “What a fantastic contribution you have made to this course Lisa.”
    I agree – more images and yes boxes with linking lines don’t count.

    @Stephan Downes above:”I don’t see the value in shutting the instructors up.”
    The Daily is an instructor created platform – a lectern. From the “front of the room” (the daily is often referred to as the most valuable starting place) the instructor is more than allowed to speak (“I don’t see the value in shutting the instructors up.”) but is AMPLIFIED. I was dismayed at the “head patting” amid comments being included in the Daily, too. As an alternative, the instructor could link to his/her blog from the daily where any comments would then be framed as from a single participant not from the leader. It’s not that I’m not interested in what Stephan says, I am. However, I’m not interested in a course structure that automatically amplifies one viewpoint over the others.

    Comment by Bob Bell — November 29, 2008 @ 11:38 am

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  5. @jennymackness Great! I agree with you when you write, “But what has been interesting on this course – about connectivism – is that people don’t really seem to want this. They want groups and communities”

    Comment by emapey — November 30, 2008 @ 6:40 am

  6. @Stephen Downes I agree with you. The Daily is your blog and you should be able to post your opinion about other posts. You are a node in the network. An important one. But this shouldn’t prevent you from expressing your opinion.

    I think you shouldn’t have included in The Daily the RSS feeds from student blogs. As connectivists we should be able to find all the CCK08 students blog posts.

    Comment by emapey — November 30, 2008 @ 6:54 am

  7. […] if I had missed the relevance of some posting. It was a big temptation to use these commentaries (discussed at Lisa’s critique post) instead of autonomous judgement and filtering. On the other hand, I […]

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  8. @Jenny I agree; I think I was assuming the course would indeed have fewer traditional elements. There is some difference of opinion as to what this would mean — Matthias goes even further than I do, and doesn’t seem to want even the restrictions I’m keeping!

    @Stephen The value might be in removing centralizing aspects to encourage less reliance on the instructor. I don’t see this as shutting anyone up, but, as B-ob puts it, removing some amplification. It would also remove the temptation, noted by Matthias, of relying on previously culled blog posts instead of seeking out more. I detected no scarcity of instructor input in this class.

    Comment by Lisa — December 2, 2008 @ 10:58 am

  9. Lisa

    Your posts have made CCK08 very special for me. Thank you for your energy and resilience.

    I like the suggestions you make. Going through CCK08 had its own momentum and atmosphere and I wonder how different structures would have changed the experience.

    I was very comfortable with the structure but have learned enormously from the process.

    I hope that I can stay in touch with you and your ideas.


    Comment by Keith Lyons — December 3, 2008 @ 5:16 pm

  10. Hi Lisa,
    I have created a post in response to yours.
    I will reflect on this further.
    I share with you on “the value might be in removing centralizing aspects to encourage less reliance on the instructor.” Great to meet you here in this course.

    Comment by suifaijohnmak — December 6, 2008 @ 9:50 pm

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