22 thoughts on “MSCEDC MOOC Ethnography

  1. I like your videos, not although but because yours are very different to mine.
    I try to be explicit – you are suggestive.
    I talk to the viwer – you talk to yourself.
    I present onformation – you present questions.
    I try to be entertaining – you are somewhat dreamy.
    Whereas I try to be clear in what I think and want to say, your videos invite the viewer to think themself and come to their own conclusion.

    I think, hope, believe both approaches work. And I would add, that your approach has more of an academic air to it, making it easier for academics to relate to them. Your videos are complentative, intellectual, and asking questions with open answers is like a film that wins a price at Cannes. I am more Hollywood. Intentionally. But academics tend to be wary of these thongs – if it is fun, it can not be smart. Oh all those biases 😉

    To cut a long story short: I enjoy your videos and learn from them. Thanks!

    1. Some really interesting observations and comparisons here Dirk; it’s fascinating to hear others’ opinions on one’s work. I’m particularly struck by the fact that you perceive the video as presenting questions; I think because I am so close to the content I considered it fairly closed and definitive.

      I really appreciate your thoughtful reflections: thank you for taking the time to look at my work and comment.

  2. Hi Helen,

    This is such a wonderfully rich artefact again. I really loved how you incorporated the themes around body from Block 1 into Block 2. You brilliantly supported Sterne (2006) by incorporating the sound of typing, breathing and a heart beat to demonstrate how over-whelming and anxious being involved online can sometimes seem.

    I also loved that you gave a us a glimpse into your personal life too. I took up rollerskating last year and I saw you are able to skate, so that’s something we have outside digital education in common. I’ve found this block particularly interesting because communities seem to grow better by incorporating the personal. Really lovely work. 🙂

    1. Hi Chenée,

      Thank you so much for your positive feedback. I have to say that I really struggled with the ethnography: firstly I became embroiled in ethical questions and then I wasn’t able to get permission to quote the course participants. Brilliant of you to make the connection with Sterne – I didn’t! And yes – anxiety and a sense of being disorientated by the hubbub and volume of activity are responses which I’ve frequently experienced both on the MOOC and in this module!

      I had to be pushed by my partner to include the personal images: it sits uncomfortably with me to blend my private space with this public one (I know that this is something which you reflected on in your own lifestream (http://edc17.education.ed.ac.uk/cpsaros/2017/01/30/performativity-and-collapse-of-context-in-an-educational-space-week-2/)) but he felt that I needed to reference why the medium of the MOOC wasn’t working to deliver the sort of mindful experiences which I get from other areas of my life. I think it works but I still feel a little uneasy about this ‘collapse of context’.

      And brilliant that you skate: are you in a roller derby team? If not, what sort of skating do you do (way, way back, I was a figure skater; that’s something Anne Powers and I have in common). We could start an MSc skating club…

  3. Well done on a great ethnography Helen! I’m particularly drawn to your analysis as I was also part of a MOOC on Future Learn and also felt this ever present pressure to participate, comment and keep up. Having completed MOOC’s on other platforms it seems fairly particular to their offerings? Is there a particular aspect of the visual design, progress indicators and number of comments made per module that makes one feel guilt ridden for not being more involved? Furthermore, is this the intention perhaps?

    I’m reminded of Descartes, ‘I think, therefore I am’ statement when considering the above. As ethnographers these past few weeks we have be somewhat forearmed to the self inflicted pressures of the MOOC’process. Why should we even be surprised when the average Joe Soap has a punt at some course that carries his vague interest and then drops off after a few short engagements? Particularly as the influences of life, as you have aptly portrayed them, get in the way. Maybe all MOOC’s should come with a mindfulness block up front.

    Well Done again!

    1. Myles, many thanks for your comments on my work. It’s interesting that you perceive the FutureLearn format to be more pressured; Adams (2014) comments on Coursera’s ability to induce guilt and panic through their communications with students. This was my first MOOC, so I have nothing to compare it with it with. And yes: perhaps the visual design is intended to try and encourage more effective and engaged participation; ironic that for me, and possibly others, it had the opposite effect. This effort to encourage completion is fascinating too. Completion is still considered a measure of success; however, as you and Stewart (2013) suggest, MOOC learners may not be driven by the same motivations which promote engagement within a more traditional educational context. Clare reflected on this this week too.

  4. This is another really well-executed artefact, Helen. You really captured the discordance you experienced between the course subject matter or content and the mode of delivery. This was conveyed especially well through your use of sound. I also enjoyed your integration of theory – it was a very thoughtful piece.

    On your question of whether there may be an ‘inherent dissonance between form and content when delivering some subjects via a MOOC’, I wonder which aspect(s) of the course delivery contributed most significantly to the sense of dissonance.   You highlighted the number of participants (the massiveness), a potential overload of tasks, disruptive notifications, and quantified participation/completion notices – did any of these stand out as being more significant to you than the others?

    Also, were there any opportunities to give feedback on participant experience? (or, have you noticed any later in the course?) I watched a talk recently by Tressie McMillen Cottom [blogged about here] in which she noted that what we collect information about is selective: our tools are very good at analysing time spent on tasks, but not at figuring out what people have learned or experienced. It seems that collecting information about participants’ experience on your course in particular, due to its subject matter, would be key to improving future iterations.

    I really enjoyed your artefact – thanks for sharing it.

    1. Thanks (as ever) for your thoughtful feedback Renée. An interesting question about which elements I found most discordant: for me, the long list of tasks which was presented at the start of every week was most starkly at odds with the course content. This visual ‘to do’ list conflicted with the core message of the course, which was to focus on the moment and on the task in hand. And yes, the massiveness of the course was also dissonant; I first learned about mindfulness one-to-one with Laurence McKenna, who specialises in hearing loss therapy. That experience of learning about mindfulness was entirely different to the MOOC; I feel that if my first experience of mindfulness training had been via the MOOC I would have entirely lost interest.

      With regard to giving feedback, there were discussion areas which were established to enable participants to discuss themes and tasks. However, some of the comments did focus on how participants were struggling to complete activities or were anxious about ‘catching up’. Thanks for highlighting Cottam’s talk: I’ll take a look at your blog post.

  5. Helen, I’ve really enjoyed and appreciated your artefact. It’s struck me, and struck with me, and speaks well beyond your own ethnographic context. I liked the silence, the pacing, the narrative arc – and it filled in some gaps with my own FutureLearn experience (which, in turn, helped me see that in a different way, and thus a little more clearly). I’ve not immediately tied it to the reading, but I sense it will be in my mind as I return to the reading, and will enhance and illuminate there. Many thanks for a rich experience.

    1. Matthew, thanks for taking the time to look at my work and for your positive comments. I’m going to be looking at the ethnographies over the next few days, and I’ll be interested to see how your FutureLearn experience compares.

  6. Echoing everyone else’s comments here, Helen, great work.

    I especially liked the sequence from 00:36 to 00:43 where the frantic typing, flashes of screen content and then the frustrated sigh seemed to perfectly capture the dissonance between your expectations of the MOOC (based upon the subject matter) and your experiencing of it. And all achieved without any description through spoken or written commentary. Great stuff.

    I know we touched on this as you made plans for sharing your research, however I see this your work autoethnographic approach where you placed great emphasis on your role and experience as the researcher, rather than looking to focus on the rituals of the observed community. At the same time this was a really great – in fact very successful – way of overcoming the challenges around ethics and permission.

    Skating off an a tangent for a moment, from time-to-time there have been conversations from students and tutors on the Digital Education programme about getting programme hoodies (as in hooded sweatshirts), in the same way that this has become popular for campus-based programmes. Over the last few years it has been fascinating to see how keen students have become to publicly identify themselves as part of the Medics, Law, Chemistry, Hockey, Drama communities and so on. So, if the Digital Education Skating Society comes about I can put you in touch with the people who make the hoodies and other merchandise 😉

  7. Helen that is a job very well done!.

    I don’t know if it was deliberate but the white really worked well and adding the sound effects helped to really draw me into your world.

    Very clever way to introduce the concept but without adding to the digital noise.

    Oh and cute cat!

    1. Thank you Eli: I love a white background in presentations – it makes life much easier…

      Buster (the cat) came with the house. He was a stray who ingratiated himself. We tolerate each other. 😉

  8. Hi Helen

    I loved your micro ethnography and agree wholeheartedly with all the comments posted here. I thought there was no dissonance between content and form here! It had great pace, clarity and depth of thought.



  9. Hi Helen
    I really enjoyed your video as so much of it resonated with me and it brought so much of your personal presence into the research, which I think is at the centre of the concept of online community. Your MOOC certainly was massive with those levels of comments and also shows how the tick box approach from FutureLearn isn’t really very motivating in a positive way.
    Your mindfulness course and research approach reminded me of this article from BrainPickings: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/09/01/seneca-on-the-shortness-of-life/
    Thanks for sharing

    1. Hi Clare
      Thank you for your positive feedback. As I mentioned to Chenée, I find included personal material a little uncomfortable, so I’m pleased that you think it worked here. The article was brilliant (and beautifully illustrated) ‘ we are not given a short life but we make it short’. I haven’t heard of BrainPickings before either, so thank you for alerting me to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *