massive + open = new literacies of participation? – NOTES

Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation?

Bonnie Stewart


MOOCs are a paradigm shift for academia. Rather than arguing that MOOCS are a revolution or privatisation the author argues that MOOCS are subtle promotional tool for the ethos of participation and distributed expertise. Most MOOCS aren’t at the moment, but could they develop these values?

For the author MOOCS could get users to question goals, purpose and roles within education and digital literacy.



What are digital literacies? – p.2 It’s not just using new tech in established social practice. E.g. using a clicker poll in a lecture as a way to ask a question (instead of raise your hands)

Instead the tech needs to have an ethos attached – more participatory, collaborative and distributed. E.g. using a clicker poll in a lecture where the results change the content of the lecture.


Most MOOCS don’t encourage this ethos, but they could inadvertently just because they are massive and open. NETWORK ENGAGEMENT is the key here. All MOOCS have networking capability if they have chat and user profile. They can bypass top-down teaching.

Author claims the bigger the course the more likely the urge to network becomes within the system. Where MOOCS encourage p2p learning new literacies spread.


REMEMBER there are cMOOCS and xMOOCS. cMOOCS are more significant for digital literacy development but they all have the potential as long as they are massive and open.

MASSIVE – It’s not about economy of scale, getting the benefits of being big, efficiency, etc. Instead it’s the size and capacity to make new knowledge.


Info vs communications perspective – What’s important for education? info resources or communication?

This debate is central to all MOOCs. This author is communication focused.

Some MOOC business discourse focuses on info, assumes that knowledge is clear, mastering it is the key to successful education. Contrast to –

Info discourse assumes assumes that nothing changes when you increase number of student from IRL to MOOC.


LITERACIES – depends on context and particular mediating technologies. not a skill (“controlled activity you’ve learnt to do”).

Skills have objective thresholds. Literacy is a condition, you can’t just boil it down to set skills.

This radical understanding of literacies has been tamed to suit info focused views on education.


P.5 “To be digitally literate is to be able to engage the connections and communications possibilities of digital technologies, in their capacity to generate, remix, repurpose, and share new knowledge as well as simply deliver existing information.”


…it’s not just consumption. MOOCs bring people into contact with maker culture/dig literacy.


Q: How much meta-learning happens if you are remixing information just using easy to use tools? Traktor, thinglink, etc.

Dig Tech is – replicable (so can remix), searchable (so allows navigation of shared environments, assuming it is well designed), scalable (can find unintended audiences).

MOOCS position users as open scholars rather than mere students (rather assumes a level expertise)

xMOOCS “exploit the advantages of online communication without letting such communication challenge its expertise model” p.6


However, so long as the courses as platforms continue to enable participatory networking and engagement among students, they effectively begin to sow the very seeds of new literacies that challenge and undermine that instrumentalist perspective on education and expertise. – BUT JUST BECAUSE A SEED IS SOWN DOES NOT MEAN IT WILL FLOWER.


  1. 8 pre-digital “professors offered the expertise necessary to navigate and interpret the resources in question” AND THEY STILL DO. When the internet is a deluge and abundance if anything interpretation and navigation is even more necessary.


Frames the trad. Teacher – student relationship as restrictive and transmission based.


Q: If the role between the student and teach blurs what happens when no one sees themselves as the teacher? Will anyone feel an obligation to be critical? To give input on ALL students work? To help weaker students and well as more able?