A Mini-ethnography

A Mini-ethnography


For the Community Cultures block we were asked to create a mini-ethnography on a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). I had never heard of this term and whilst reading multiple books and articles on the topic I enrolled onto a MOOC as both a learner and researcher. The block was tough. It topic wasn’t only new to me but I found it time consuming. Trying to balance the social media platforms, blog, MOOC and readings took up every spare minute. However, what began as murky waters has cleared to an understanding and appreciation of online education. There are flaws but nothing is perfect. The pedagogy for me is important as no matter the technology used teaching is still teaching but our task was to discuss the ‘community’ within a MOOC. I was anxious about this due to my presumptions and expectations of the ‘community’ through both the Stewart (2013) and Kozinet (2010) article. However, my experience was far from their descriptions. I tried to keep to the task and represent my experience but I don’t know about it being a ‘mini’ ethnography.  Please find my ‘autoethnography’ attached.


Kozinets, R. V. (2010) Chapter 2 ‘Understanding Culture Online’, Netnography: doing ethnographic research online. London: Sage. pp. 21-40.

Stewart, B., (2013). Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Technology, 9(2), pp.228–238.

13 thoughts on “A Mini-ethnography

  1. An automicrowebnography! Very nice presentation style too. It really helps to provide pace to your writing.

    I’m very interested in your experience initially, as I’m looking through a lense of parts of Kozinet’s work for my ethnography. My finding for my mooc seems to place the community at a very different place from my experience.

    When I see your response from the community, I’m more sure that my own conclusions could well prove to stand up to more rigorous debate: namely that we need a specific matrix to account for MOOC communities. They just do not seem to behave like “normal” online communities !

  2. What I mean is that your experience with the community on your mooc and my experience with my mooc appear to be polar opposites, but neither, I think, are adequately covered by the matrix presented by Kozinets!

    1. Hi Colin,

      I agree! After reading Stewart and Kozinet I had expectations of a MOOC and the ‘community’ attached. I wasn’t prepared for the lack of conversation and considered switching to another MOOC. This was worrying considering most individuals on the MSCEDC course were vocal on Twitter updates about their ‘community’ experience. I felt the lack of community could be an interesting topic so I powered through.


  3. Did using sparknote shape how you presented this information at all? My impression of sparknote is that other than making appear a bit more fancy it is still entirely reliant on text to provide content. The pictures are window dressing for the reader. Perhaps you made more profound connections between the text and pictures when you were making it?

    I wasn’t a fan of the massive bloodshot eyeball looking at me as I read but the actual words were vey informative.

    1. Hi Dan,

      I didn’t use sparknote it was Adobe Spark.

      It is a presentation tool which focuses on visual material and it gives you options for how you use it including text, video, social media graphics and pages.
      So it could be used differently than how I have used it but I believe the purpose of the EDC course is to make us contemplate the use of technology for teaching and learning, contemplate what is and when it is appropriate and to discover for ourselves whether technology is driving the pedagogy or if the pedagogy is driving the technology.

      As the assignment was for us to carry out an ethnographic study of the community in our chosen MOOC, I chose to write an autoethnography before deciding how I would present the findings. That way technology and my intended use of it could not unintentionally influence my findings. In this instance, I wrote as if I was going to create a blog post (simple text format) but decided to try using a new tool which I have never used before. A chance to stretch myself and push my limits. Spark gave me the option to do this without having to rely too heavily on technology and still allow the text to be the content and focus. The options to use both background graphics and focal movement as a way to break the readers concentration from the large amount of text allows the reader the opportunity to unconsciously change focus and process the information in bite-sized chunks. This relates to the topic of my MOOC as does the images of how we process dimensions, light and space around us. We all know how hard it can be to get through an entire peer reviewed journal article in one go 😊

  4. Hi Linzi
    That was a fascinating account of your experience, especially the part about the advice that you should actually choose a different course. The discussion element is so complex within the MOOC platforms. Whilst there were thousands of comments in my course I wouldn’t say there were significant numbers of conversations despite the encouragement from the course facilitators. However, there was a lot of creative engagement so I considered that to be a successful outcome from a blended x/cMOOC, but perhaps you wouldn’t have. Research into MOOCs as a concept appears to be incredibly difficult.
    I agree and disagree with Daniel – I found Spark more limiting once I actually started to create mine and abandoned it quite quickly but I did really like your ‘eye’ – is it you in the middle?

    1. Hi Clare,

      I think it’s difficult for facilitators to encourage feedback when the participants are task-focused. If there is nothing to be gained from conversation then it can seem unnecessary? The manner is usually warm and friendly as most people are courteous but when you look at the actual content you have to look beyond the veneer. In particular the direction to another course.

      The image is not of me but an image from the selection on Adobe Spark. The intention behind that image was in regard to the autoethnography having my experience at the focal point.

    2. Hi Linzi
      Now looking at your presentation on a PC rather than tablet I can see it isn’t you! I spent more time initially on the images in the presentation than the text. I loved them all.

      Your comment “you have to look beyond the veneer” is something that I hadn’t considered at all – very interesting that people may be writing only with a false sense of politeness.

  5. Hi Linzi,

    I really enjoyed reading your work.

    I was particularly interested when you said that you would see the course through to completion despite acknowledging that there are things that you find obstructive or off-putting as a learner. I considered motivators and completion rates in my ethnography so it was good to read of your experience.

    I also wondered if you felt that the pre-recorded videos felt staged and over enthusiastic? The ones in my MOOC did and it gave a very strange feel.



  6. Hi Stuart,

    Motivation for me is key but I also LOVED the content. The videos were full of detail and the professor spoke to the camera as if she were tutoring you as an individual whilst manipulating slides and images at the same time. She recorded an experiment using an eye patch and it was entertaining. She couldn’t throw the bean bag at the target accurately as she couldn’t assess the position of the target properly, she was used to vision with both eyes. Another experiment involved a video of a man using inversion prism goggles over two weeks. An image is usually projected onto the back of the retina upside-down and backwards so the goggles influenced this in a way that he would actually experience the world upside-down and backwards. Simple things such as filling a cup of water was difficult for him at the start of the experiment but over time his brain began to process the information and adjust to normal function. As I said, I LOVED it.

  7. Fantastic conversation here Linzi, a testament to a super, and very detailed, micro-ethnography presentation.

    ‘The mentor asked my reasons for my choice of course, and I was even directed towards a more suitable course in music also available on Coursera…I was perplexed, were qualifications necessary? I thought this was open? ‘

    I thought this was quite an interesting response! Did they not want you on the course? 🙂 Or perhaps they were trying to ‘filter’ participants, in the sense of maintaining people with appropriate interest and background in the subject – maybe that is a legitimate way of organising a cohesive community?

    Nevertheless, it seems like you genuinely enjoyed the course, and I hope you see it through, good luck!

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