Size, scale and #Change11 MOOC

Just a question: The M of MOOC is for Mass. What can we say about mass?
Mass is modern industrial. And human scale and small is conservative?
Are mass schools better than small schools?
Does emerge more in a mass?
Is connection between mass and abundance?

Or maybe a MOOC is just Massive, just because it is possible to organize a mass event with help of  social media? No second thoughts on pros and cons of mass for learning? Massive by coincidence, change or accident?

Schumacher (Small is Beautiful) and others are in favor of small.

Surowiecki, J. (2004) The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, is a voice in favor of masses.

Does a MOOC share the disadvantages of big  institutions? Is a MOOC of a human scale, is more alienation in a MOOC than in a small university or college?

Maybe the difference is to be found here:  School is an institution and a physical environment and exists for a long time,  and a MOOC (and crowd sourcing) is a short time virtual event.

What is the advantage of Mass in a MOOC? “… There’s a good chance of a small but critical mass of active performers emerging from large numbers of individuals connecting in whatever roles they choose – personal, collaborative, ‘toe-dipper’, lurker, or even troll….” (gbl55)

In MOOC principles and course design (comments) diversity is mentioned and connected to size of the MOOC.

In discussions on quality of solutions from crowd sourcing diversity  is mentioned as an important factor. I wonder what is the distance between MOOC and crowd sourcing? However, is Mass a guarantee for diversity?

A student in a MOOC does not connect to all other students, so why is mass important for this student? Is it because a massive course is a rich learning environment?

7 thoughts on “Size, scale and #Change11 MOOC

  1. What are the advantages to massiveness? Crowd sourcing is held up as having some sort of magic power to sort for optimum answers. But without stipulating for some element of diversity, simply averaging the same answer to the power of, say, one thousand will give you the same result as asking one person and being happy with. (I thought crowd sourcing went along with investing in ENRON and sank with that ship?)

    In evolution, massiveness might lead to a higher likelihood of diversity which could be an advantage if the diversity lead to an advantageous mutation. If, as some suggest, we are in the midst of the extinction of institutions of higher education it may be only the mutants who will survive to carry on whatever it was we can’t decide we were doing.

    Wish I could see a direct link between massiveness and diversity. Maybe it acts by gravity drawing everything to it? Sort of a neutral process of recruitment without bias or sorting. Unpredictable and (maybe) emergent. Massiveness increases the opportunity for chance encounters to happen without design? So what are the advantages of chance encounters?

  2. Hi, Scott, Thanks for your answer. Crowd sourcing is still with us, and your questions are still urgent to crowd sourcing. If you want different answers, ideas for slogans, names for products, you could ask a lot of people and choose what you do like.
    Remains the question why a MOOC should be Massive?

  3. Hi Jaap,

    Large numbers suggest thresholds to me. Beyond a certain number we exceed our limit to….to what? Maybe if we induce a sense of something being outside our control by presenting too many possibilities at once new options may emerge?

    Think we have to go past the concept of many ideas to select from as a value. Or at least the first stage of that process where individuals give their individual idea before hearing the ideas of others. The act of shifting from speaking as an individual to speaking and thinking as a group may be a threshold that is valuable to cross?

    I’ll have to read up on the value of diversity. Ecology and city planning (for instance) speak of it. There’s something in chaos theory and complexity studies that speaks to this but I think we are into the area of social interaction rather than BIG THEORY answers.

    Hope you had a good Christmas and fine yourself a bit more massive after so many treats.


  4. Thanks for the quote Jaap! I do think ‘massive’ leads to diversity, greater chance of any unique individual making interesting, stimulating, enjoyable connections with others etc etc. Even the Lurker can exploit ‘massive’ by skimming through large quantities of diverse content on the same topic and benefit from exposure to different perspectives. And there is an ongoing human interest element in watching the active participants play out their roles! Whether much learning is achieved is quite a different matter though and I suspect that for very many participants learning is quite basic and introductory – nothing wrong with that but quite different from the conventional idea of a course.
    Gordon Lockhart

  5. Gordon, Scott, Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    This massive in MOOC is becoming very interesting. I do not know, cannot find, if the inventors of the MOOC were aware of the effects of this property of a MOOC.
    I have a feeling that more students in a course do change the way course is working.
    The word ‘quantum leap’ (in Dutch one word ;)) wants to be written here.
    Have a nice time.

  6. As always, Jaap, you ask interesting questions! 🙂 I’m not sure about massiveness and diversity. They seem to occur together at times but not always. Example: are thousands of people who watch the same hockey game across multiple time zones considered a diverse group? Or by their interest in hockey, are they homogenous?

    I think the massive part of a mooc like #change11 reflects the breadth, depth and scale of what we are wrestling with:
    – big questions about what learning is and how it works
    – large numbers of people and organizations that are interested in these topics
    – seismic waves of change in technology and education
    – millions of possible ways to connect, converge, diverge, explore, debate, reflect as chosen by the individuals within the mass

    Perhaps I can add to your questions: if the course were *not* massive, would that change our experience?

  7. Hi Brainy, your question is interesting too. I guess a not-massive course would change our experience indeed. Need to think it over.

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