‘The Internet of Things MOOC’ – First Impressions

I tweeted earlier this week that I had registered and joined by first ever MOOC. Having spent a short while investigating my options I decided on ‘The Internet of Things‘ delivered by King’s College London via FutureLearn.

I have been aware of the idea of the MOOC for some time but for one reason or another never quite got round to trying it for myself. I also recall a reading from the IDEL course (I’m still trying to find it) highlighting that MOOCs have a very low completion rate as people dip in and out of the course to learn about specific topics rather than bother with the full course in its entirety.

Anyway, my first impressions were quite good. I immediately thought that the FutureLearn resource could easily be described as a Learning Management System (LMS)/Social Networking Site (SNS) hybrid. On one side of my screen was the course content and on the other was a comments log with striking similarities to Facebook (comments, likes etc).

Though I am not actively participating in the MOOC but instead observing from a distance, I noticed some course characteristics that I could relate to Lister et al (2009) when he considers the construction of self. In writing about the construction of identities in CMC and post-structuralism, Lister suggests that “identity is constructed through discourse”.  Throughout the first week of my MOOC there has certainly been a considerable amount of students leaving questions and comments on the topics described by the tutor. However, of the 607 students who have left comment I have yet to see any replies or further conversation or discussion. I would best describe it as digital cacophony.

I’ll stress again that it is only Week 1 of the course and perhaps things may change as we progress. However it is hard to imaging an effective learning community forming based on what I have witnessed so far. I have completed my profile and posted to the discussion thread. I am there, I am participating, yet I feel largely anonymous.

Perhaps my observations are a result of the influence of Web 2.0. There is evidence of newer web media and formats similar to popular online services within my MOOC and the participants seem to be displaying behaviours that are typical of social networking (use of emojis, word abbreviations etc). It could also explain the dip in/dip out approach that I mentioned earlier.

Finally, my MOOC certainly seems to be connecting large volumes of people from a large number of countries throughout the world. It will be interesting to observe their differing experience and knowledge of the “Internet of Things”. I will certainly be looking for further evidence of the “digital divide” partly caused by geographical and economical differences that Lister et al (2009) describes.


Lister, M., Dovey, J., Giddings, S., Kelly, K. (2009). Networks, users and economics. In New media: a critical introduction. M. Lister (Eds.) (London, Routledge): pp. 163-236.


2 Replies to “‘The Internet of Things MOOC’ – First Impressions”

  1. Hello Stuart, very well done on getting the ethnography exercise going so quickly.

    In the same way that an ethnographer might step away from the community of interest in order to reflect on his or her observations, your own blog post here takes the form of a field note. At a very fundamental level, ethnography has an interest in constructing meaning through writing and you seem to be using your blog here as a form or ethnographer’s journal.

    Well done also for managing to weave Lister’s idea’s around your own observations of the community. I think this will really help your mini-ethnography.

    ‘However, of the 607 students who have left comment I have yet to see any replies or further conversation or discussion. I would best describe it as digital cacophony.’

    First of all, I *love* the digital cacophony phrase you’ve coined here. The more I think about though – and bear in mind that I’m not immersed in your field site whereas you are – I wondered whether it quite matched up with your description of the communication taking place. I would see a cacophony as more chaotic, raucous and grating: what you’ve described seems to be more a unanswered deluge of questions. What is it about the conversation that makes it cacophonous, out of interest?

    Really interesting work here, Stuart. I’m going to really enjoy reading your mini-ethnography.

    1. Hi Jeremy,

      Thanks again for the feedback.

      I’ll be honest and say that this post was more just my first impressions of the MOOC but I fully agree it is more of a field note.

      I’m glad you like the digital cacophony phrase – believe it or not I spent quite a while deciding on the best word to use. In the end, I pictured what it would be like to hear all of the 607 questions/comments in any other environment and concluded it would be an absolute racket. I can also imagine what it would be like for the MOOC tutor to be faced with a barrage of questions – I picture it to be rather chaotic.

      I’m really looking forward to starting on my mini-ethnography.



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