“What people say, what people do, and what people say they do are entirely different things”

It’s late and I’m tired. I’ve done enough reading for today so thought I would watch a TED Talk before going to bed. Now I find myself updating my blog.

In the video above Ellen Isaacs is explaining the need for ethnographic observation within both technology design and differing environments. I couldn’t help but pay particular attention to the following offerings during her talk and loosely relate them to the culture within my MOOC:

1 – Human behaviour

Do people engage in the way that they think they are?

If an ethnography is an observational study of people’s behaviour in a community or environment, then I have been wondering if informing course participants that they are the subjects of research would influence their behaviour, and thus, not giving a true reflection of their behaviour. In the case of the IoT MOOC I suspect that I have went unnoticed – however it is something I have considered nevertheless.

My earlier posts have suggested that I am struggling to understand how people can construct knowledge in a connectivist  MOOC without participating in any discourse whatsoever. In the case of the MOOC, I can personally relate to Fournier et al (2014) when they noted that around 1/3 of MOOC participants either found listening and reflecting or lurking as effective learning strategies. I fully expect to learn a little about IoT as a result of observing the MOOC but not actively participating. Whether that learning is correct is another matter.

2. Signposting

I couldn’t help but compare the street sign examples in the video to the course content of the MOOC. What if the community within the MOOC was being influenced by differing understandings and interpretations of the static text and video within the course? After all, there will inevitably be people with differing experience, existing knowledge and (as previously tweeted) levels of English fluency within the MOOC. In other terms, I think until now my mind has been too focused on how the community is forming under its own weight without considering other factors such as course design.


Fournier, H., Kop, R., and Durand, G. (2014). Challenges to research in MOOCs. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 10(1): pp. 1-15.

2 Replies to ““What people say, what people do, and what people say they do are entirely different things””

  1. This fits nicely with our conversation about what’s bubbling away beneath the surface.

    My perspective of this course community and its activity is different from other peoples’ perspectives but we take our own as fact regardless of the possibility of it being wrong due to a narrow filter of view.

    Going to make a pot of tea and watch this, thanks


  2. This is a really interesting post, Stuart – thanks! I’m going to listen to the Ted talk myself later 🙂

    I was really interested in your comments about different levels of experience and signposting; the MOOC I’m doing is about journalism and has a lot of professional journalists enrolled, yet the course content is definitely of a level suitable for someone like me – literally the lowest common denominator there. It also feels extremely Western in its approach but the participants are extraordinarily international.

    I wonder how much you think the signposting is intentional, and whether there’s any way that ethnography or netnography could capture some of the detail around how course content is signposted…

    Cheers for the blog post 🙂


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