Massive amount of participants essential in MOOC #CCK11

amount of possible connections

In a MOOC (with emphasis on the M of Massive) pingback would be an interesting feature if the feature is used by many participants. The amount of participants in a MOOC would make connections in wide directions possible. But in CCK11 most persons who did sign up do not participate as members of the network. The existing network in this MOOC (as I can see it on the internet) is about 50 actively engaged participants. The M for Massive is really important for a MOOC to work. A comment in a blog or website (or on Facebook) is a means to connect to the network, and that is more and different from taking part in a conversation. (comment on blog of  Alan Cooper)

If pingback is used, a comment of Ann on the page of Bernard would be visible to Chris when  visiting Bernard’s page. Chris could now visit Ann’s page and discover a comment of Dave which is very interesting to Chris.  You, do try to make this visible in a network. And try to imagine this A-B-C-D-connections taking place all over the network of 700 participants all using a (hash)tag to flag their content.  Technical solutions like pingback and (hash)tags will help making the network.  “…What about Massive Open Online Network ?” Susan proposes a new name for a MOOC.

The (hash)tag will be visible to some participants when they do a search (on Twitter or on internet or on WordPress). That will make them to connect to other parts of the network.  Eva will connect to Dave and Eva is already connected to Forest and Gerald and Hanna. In this way connections will grow fast and the choice of who will connect immediately to who (commenting) will be abundant. “… Getting Connected …”

In a 50 person network 50*49/2= 1225  connections are possible. (see diagram)
In a 700 person network 700*699/2=244650 connections are possible.

More active participants would enhance the variety of the content and the quality of the content. (Because content is seen by a lot of critical readers quality would grow) “…So there’s an imperative for deep specialization – that comes tight focus in one field – to apply itself to the wider context of the world in which it exists….” writes  Simon Fowler

Question in a MOOC is “How to stimulate people to participate by writing and commenting?”

  • Would a “Help-file” or a “Introduction” be helpful in which people can read that writing and commenting is necessary and using the (hash)tag is more than helpful?
  • A daily  newspaper with a reminder of the importance of connecting and commenting and  publishing could help?
  • New students in a MOOC could be advised to do searches on the internet and find their fellow participants. (I did find some blogs that mention Connectivism of starters that do writ blogs, but do not try to connect to the MOOC-network.
  • New students in a MOOC could be advised not only  to comment to blogs of other people but to write blogposts as a result of their comments, with citations of other blogs texts  (including URL of the source) . This a how a pingback is fired.

Who wants to search all those people who did want to start the MOOC on CCK11 and ask them why they did not go on with it?


11 thoughts on “Massive amount of participants essential in MOOC #CCK11

  1. Hey Jaap,
    Is it possible network participants could be overwhelmed by too much activity? There must be a term for overload in network theory?

    I like the idea of commenting in a network as a way to stimulate my own thinking and as a means of contributing to the activity of an emerging group. In fact, I prefer to comment than to blog. What does it mean to be responsive in a network rather than initiating? Can this be a clue to non-participation? If a person’s responses only feed the network to the “blog level” and never get captured and broadcast at the network level would there be a point in participating? Without a “voice” that’s heard somehow are you really a participant?

    As for “massive”, if only 50 of the 700 “participants” are active isn’t this more appropriately called an event? What are the characteristics of a MOOC that really make it different than any other class? Beyond the consistently high quality of participants of course.


  2. Hi Scott, Honorable High Quality Participant of this CCK11, To me learning is manipulating information, not reading but writing comments, analyzing, asking questions … For me learning in this MOOC means participating, blogging etc.
    The quality of a MOOC is in the connections, to a lot of different people with different views and information. Of course everybody is free to listen or to comment or not to participate in this active networking way. But I would like some more people were engaged in connecting and sharing. The problem is not in the participants, it is in the structure of the MOOC as it is now. Connecting / networking is a crucial aspect of a MOOC, and connecting is new. The MOOC has to be enriched by more possibilities or stimuli to participants to connect in an active way. May be some more and different channels for connections could be inserted in the MOOC?

  3. wow! As usual there’s a lot in here.
    Just for starters I’d like to thank you for the idea of tagging to improve the searchability of distributed discussions. And I agree that a reference site for hints as to how to use the tools effectively would be a good idea.

    With regard to Scott’s comment, I think there’s nothing less valid about commenting rather than posting on a separate blog. It just depends on how much you want to keep your own thoughts for future reference and/or to use the reference as a jumping off point to ideas which might seem like “hijacking the thread” if posted in full as a comment.

  4. Alan, You are right, commenting is not something bad. The MOOC could use more connectivity, the participants are free to choose their own way.

  5. Nice post, and a great question. I’ll offer up one possible reason…it’s too compacted. The weekly pace might be too fast for some. I know it is for me. If it’s an open course, maybe allowing for participants to participate at their own speed would encourage much more participation. Besides the UofM tie-in, is there any reason a course like this needs such time restrictions?

  6. Glenyan, Thanks, The course is not limited in time, because all resources will be available some time after the course. The network of participants will remain some time, the blogs will be there. If you do not want an assessment nothing will stop you doing the course in your own pace. and speed. The assessment is the only reason of a time schedule i suppose.
    regards Jaap

  7. Hi Jaap, I would disagree…there is a limitation in time in that topics change weekly. How the course is guided can play a big part in motivating participation.

    As well, if you’re not going to be limited by this weekly schedule to measure activity, then you could easily include anyone out there who is talking about these subjects past or future, not only those who are enrolled.

  8. Jaap:”all resources will be available some time after the course” may be true but the time is not always long.
    For example, it seems that the Moodle discussions from last fall’s PLENK2010 course are no longer accessible for reference.

  9. Hi Glen the schedule might be a barrier because of causing stress, I see and understand.
    In my situation the course and my daily work are connected, I do research-journalism on education. And that gives a freedom to spend time to the MOOC. I agree doing this course next to a job that has no connection to the course would be more difficult and than need of time comes in.
    regards Jaap

  10. Hi Alan, You are right. This throwing away resources after he end of a course is the usual way of doing in a lot of educational institutions, I did not know even online communities for learning did adopt this disturbing behavior. (It is like throwing away all books in a university library when a new year starts.
    This is one of the reasons I do not like LMS systems. In LMS systems like Moodle, this cleaning up is an annoying habit. Valuable texts are moved to the dustbin.
    When blogging in a course this cleaning will not occur that rigorous.
    I agree on your first comment, the speed of a course should not lay a so heavy strain on students.

  11. Hi Alan, Agree that by commenting only on the blogs or discussion forums of others a person loses a bit of their history. When I was a kid my friends and I would build exotic road networks in dirt piles for our little cars, forts made from sticks, grass and pine needles, and all sorts of other intense participatory projects. Then knock them down at the end of the day. Not only were you not allowed to preserve these things, you were strictly forbidden to show them off to adults. Adults complicate, assign meanings and generally knock the stuffing out of everything. There was no sense of about-ness here. Just stuff that emerged from being together with other kids–something vital to the relationship but not for recording in and of itself.

    I do keep things I’ve said here and there in discussions. I suppose that will become more important as learning moves away from institutions? Jaap brings up the throwing of records away and that highlights an interesting idea. Discussions happen during learning and represent a process of understanding that belongs to the student. To the institution this is a side effect of the working-towards-certification process and of little note. A person consumes content, is tested and stamped as having passed/not passed. A certificate is issued to the person, but really, the certificate is a signal to other institutions (like an inspection stamp on a side of beef–beyond the personal).

    Is it time for us to re-invent the whole concept of institutions as teachers and qualifiers? What would we replace them with?

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