I’ve been delving deeper into the Internet of Things (IoT) MOOC and I find it ironic that a course essentially about the communication between devices doesn’t champion communication between participants. I am surprised at how little interaction there is between participants. It is difficult to connect with others as there isn’t any social media space connected to the course. It seems the only contact people have with each other is if they ‘like’ a comment, to which doesn’t happen very often. The most ‘likes’ I’ve seen on a post, so far, is four. Participants have the ability to reply to a comment and while this occasionally does happen it seems to happen in a void where people who posted the first comments don’t reply to the thread. There is such limited potential to develop autonomous channels of communication (Stewart 2013) that much of what is communicated is repetitive and limits inquiry outside the content presented on the course.
This apparent lack of communication has led me to question the whether educational communities can be established in an xMOOC. I wonder how communities might be built without extended connectivity. How do those communities go about interacting if they aren’t assisted through the platform via social media? Is FutureLearn as the private platform, where the IoT MOOC is hosted, discouraging communities from connecting? Social media sites like Twitter are not being exploited, this makes connecting with others more difficult. The limited contact participants have with each other does not promote an environment of community learning.
It is also very difficult to find people with whom to connect. Comments are presented in Facebook wall fashion but it’s quite difficult to see how active a person has been. There is no search function for why they might be interested in the topic. There is no way of knowing whether they a product developer, researcher, business, or just interested in finding out more? Even once ‘following’ another participant there is no way of directly communicating with them.
Geographical location seems important for the course content because the capabilities of connectivity for the IoT is dependent on connectivity. Again, there is no way to search for people who might be able to offer suggestions or alternatives for specific geographic locations because finding out where people are based is impossible unless they put it in their profile, which most don’t.
As a participant, I have a feeling of being blind to the community in IoT because can’t see individuals. It is similar to standing in a crowded station blindfolded. I can hear the announcements (from the teacher), I can hear specific comments from other participants, but don’t know how they fit into the greater context or whether there are any real conversations happening. Which leads me to question whether people at the same train station can be considered part of a community? Ultimately they have the same place/space in common, they all will have travelled by train but eventually they will be travelling to different destinations, probably with their headphones on and trying to avoid eye contact.
FutureLearn (2017). The Internet of Things. Retrieved: 6 February 2017. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/internet-of-things/
Stewart, B., (2013). Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Technology, 9(2), pp.228–238.