What makes a MOOC massive?

What exactly makes a MOOC massive?

By default I have always considered a MOOC to be massive based purely upon the large number of participants enrolling on a course. However I hadn’t really considered that it could be massive in terms of the large geographical distances that separate each student. Or perhaps the size of the course. Maybe it could be a mix of all three.

I read this short piece by Downes (2013) – a online learning researcher – who offered his thoughts:

“I’ve been asked this a few times recently, so I thought I should expend a few paragraphs describing the difference between online courses that are and are not ‘massive’. I argue, first, that it’s not the raw count of participants that’s important, but how the course is structured. It’s not simply a big course. Then given that caveat I go on to explain that a course needs 150 active participants to be thought of as ‘massive’ – this because 150 people – Dunbar’s Number – is more than any one person can attend to, and hence is a course that will resist groupish properties (such as an emphasis on sameness rather than diversity).”

I made this post in the hope that the #mscedc group could discuss their thoughts. I would, therefore, welcome any comments from my peers.

UPDATE (16th Feb 2017) – I posted this entry prior to starting the Stewart (2013) reading. I have just noticed Stewart defines “Massive” in the context of the MOOC.


References

Downes, S. (2013). What makes a MOOC massive? Retrieved: 15 February 2017. http://www.downes.ca/post/59842

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

 

‘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.


References

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.

 

Visual Artefact – The network of humans

So at long last I have finished my visual artefact to conclude Block 1 of Education and Digital Cultures.

I’ll admit that I spent most of the week dithering over what topic or theme to focus on and how well I would be able to create my aretfact given I know very little about creating graphics.

Anyway, without further ado, may I introduce “The network of humans”

Visual Artefact – The network of humans

I reviewed my Lifestream content over the past few weeks and noticed that cyborgs and technological intervention seems to be a topic that has been of particular interest to me. So too has the impact of cybernetics on our lives and how the human race has evolved because of it.  Therefore my artefact is a blend of the two themes. I have tried to add a timeline overlay to give a feel of where we are now and where we may go in the future

Note: the sound on the video is a little quiet. I would suggest listening with headphones.

Collaborative thinking

In recent a recent post I tried to explain my thinking between mechanical and virtual intervention on the human body and noted that it was difficult for me to imagine machinery penetrating the mind.

Today I stand corrected.

Having read Hamzelou’s (2016) contribution to New Scientist’s article entitled ‘We will soon be able to read minds and share our thoughts‘ I was fascinated by the possibility of collaborative thinking by mapping brain activity. Initially I found the idea really exciting and imagined a new generation of cybernetics where multiple people could contribute to a task without as much as opening their eyes.

However as I referred to in my previous post, I am of the belief that our minds and souls are what make humans unique and different one from another. I therefore began wondering what life would be like and how things such as global politics, the economy or even relationships would withstand a population functioning from unfiltered thoughts taken directly from the brain. I imagine it to be very different indeed.

I also found some irony in the suggestion that the thoughts of multiple human beings could be extracted and stored on a single device – typical of a client/server relationship. Perhaps we are heading towards a network of minds?

If this comes to fruition then the opportunities – in particular for education- could be very exciting indeed. As C.S Lewis once said “Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction”


References

Hamzelou, J. (2016). We will soon be able to read minds and share our thoughts. Retrieved: 4 February 2017. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23231044-200-we-will-soon-be-able-to-read-minds-and-share-our-thoughts/

Cyberculture in Song

Song 1 – Joe Walsh – Analog Man (2012)

Joe Walsh’s song ‘Analogue Man‘ can loosely be related to Sterne’s ‘Histiography of Cyberculture’ and the shift from analog to digital that he describes.

The lyrics of this song tell of a man who is struggling keeping up with the pace of the digital world in which he finds himself. The inspiration for the lyrics were derived from the artist, Joe Walsh, who noticed a significant change in technology between recording his previous album in the late 1980’s and releasing this song in 2012.

The artist is quoted as saying “”There’s a whole new world now that’s digital, and a whole new technology I’ve really had to pay attention to recording this album. “It’s my first real shot at trying to do it all digital. I just say that it’s a whole new world, and it’s virtual, which means it doesn’t really exist. It’s an illusion that’s computer-generated, and it seems to me that we are all spending more and more time in there, while our bodies sit in chairs, waiting for our minds to come back. It’s great.”

“I’m not saying analog’s better,” he continued. “I’m just saying those of us who did the bulk of our recording and songwriting in the analog world have had to make some adjustments, and I’m not sure really if it’s working for us or if we’re working for it. Technology is going so fast. I do know that it ate the record business, and I know that it ate intellectual property. I hope it doesn’t eat me!


References

Songfacts.com. (2012). Analog Man. Retrieved: 31 January 2017. http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=26420

Who really benefits from cybercultures?

I have recently finished reading Hand’s ‘Hardware to everyware: Narratives of promise and threat’ and once again I am mind-boggled at the impact that technological advances have had not only on the individual, but on a global scale. It feels as though my thoughts and feelings are now finely balanced on a see-saw as I am unable to decide on who cyberculture (as we know it now) ultimately benefits.

To quote Hand (2008):

“Power in digital culture indexes an increasing tendency toward the total surveillance and administration of society, now conducted through globally gathered and sorted information. The results of this will paradoxically be greater insecurity, an intense amplification of existing social divisions, and the consumerization of democratic citizenship” (Hand, 2008, p 39)

On one hand (excuse the pun), I am excited and optimistic about the opportunities that digital cultures will provide people with. It is truly thrilling that technology allows us to connect with people across the world that we would never have been able to without it. From this arises empowerment of the human race to achieve what may at one point have been unthinkable. As I have acknowledged in my previous blog posts it is almost impossible to imagine any real barriers to what can be achieved.

On the other hand, however, there are real threats and dangers that have arisen from our craving to introduce technology into everything. Similar to the real and physical world there are some negative and counteractive influences over digital cultures. An example of such would be the so-called “Dark Web” in which, metaphorically speaking, can be considered the digital equivalent of the underworld. Having conducted some brief research of the Dark Web, I learned that it can be summarised as an encrypted version of the internet where people can mask their true identities and locations to engage in online activity that would be considered inappropriate (if not illegal) in normal circumstances.

Hand would suggest that digital influence merely exaggerates and amplifies the characteristics of society. If true, then inevitably we will have to look beyond the romantic notion of technology as an enhancement to everything and consider the possibility that there may be unwanted implications too. I noted that Hand also made reference to global inequalities and the effect that digitisation has on widening gaps that exist between existing cultures. I was reminded of a personal experience from a few years ago when I was sat at a bar on the island of Boracay, Philippines. On one side of the bar sat a young English family whose 6 year old boy was entertaining himself by playing on an iPad. On the opposite side of the bar was a Filipino boy of a similar age who was trying to make money for his family by selling handmade personalised bracelets. It was a sobering experience to witness such inequality between to boys whose only main difference was the culture in which they grew up. Until now I hadn’t considered the role that technology played in creating this inequality.

I guess that I am concluding that as long as there is human influence in cybercultures then it is difficult to determine who ultimately benefits. Perhaps there is no sole beneficiary but instead a new set of opportunities and problems for everyone. And everything.


References

Hand, M. (2008). Hardware to everywhere: narratives of promise and threat. In Making digital cultures: access, interactivity and authenticity. (Aldershot, Ashgate): pp. 15-42.

 

Digital senses

I have recently finished reading Sterne’s ‘The hystiograpgy of cyberculture’ and was intrigued by some of the thought-provoking suggestions that he offered. When I think of a cyborg I picture a half human/half machine hybrid that has all the personal qualities of a person blended with the enhanced offerings of robotics.

What initially I didn’t think of was the way in which technology can enhance our senses. I appreciate that the focus of Sterne’s piece was of the making of history and the timeline of technological integration, and he clearly states that he is merely using sound as an example to re-enforce his point – however I think his analogy is worthy of reflection.

I recently attended a conference on assistive technologies and one of the keynote speakers, Gareth Ford Williams – Head of Accessibility for the BBC – described the public broadcaster’s efforts to enhance their radio transmissions towards a modernised and futuristic sounding “3D Radio”. In short, they are adopting technology to manipulate our brain’s interpretation of sound to create a better than life experience and to immerse people in transmission rather than passively listening.

3D Radio Video (Kelly 2016):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03smbxv

The same can be said for virtual reality. Our sense of sight is being manipulated to take us to places that we couldn’t otherwise go. 3D technologies allow us to explore internal organs in their functioning form and explore geographical location outwits our reach.  I would suggest that mechanical enhances the physical, virtual enhances the spiritual.

But  to what extent to the physical and spiritual need to be enhanced for us to concede that whether we like it or not, technological advances are becoming an integral part of our every day lives and society? Perhaps we have reached the glass ceiling of humanity where we have reached our potential but see and crave the need for more.

I have also been considering the histiography of cyberculture that Sterne proceeds to investigate. He mentions transition from analogue to digital – To that I’d add digital immigrants to digital natives, human to cyborg, offline to online and physical to virtual.


References

Kelly, S. (2016). The head giving you 3D VR sound. Retrieved: 26 January 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03smbxv

How did the world function 20 years ago?

It’s hard to imagine back as little as 20 years and how different everyday communication was. The world seems a much faster and more efficient place. But at what cost?

It seems at the cost of the fundementals of society. An app to make sure that we don’t forget our manners and common decency?  I noticed this today: New app helps pregnant commuters find a seat on public transport, but it needs your help

The next time you are on a bus or a train, take notice at how many people are pre-occupied with some form of technology. You will struggle to find many who aren’t.


References

Another187, 2016. Instagram. Available at http://www.instagram.com. Accessed 23 January 2017.

Cybercultures

In recent years there has been a sharp increase in online dating services which rise in tandem with global craving for technology. I guess this can be used as a prime example of cybercuture.

Recently I have been reading about cyborgs and the concept of human-machine hybrids achieving far more than the traditional, organic human – at least from a physical perspective. This, however, prompted me to think about the influence that machine (and indeed technology) has on the mental state of the human form.

The music video embedded within this post is a light hearted sketch of an unpopular, middle aged man exaggerating his physical attributes to attract the opposite sex in online dating environments.

I suddenly remembered studying the concept of presence during my first semester on MSc Digital Education whilst enrolled on Introduction to Digital Environments. Back then I considered digital personas and opportunities that online environments afforded people to change their characteristics to create an idealistic version of themselves. I did not, however, consider the influence this practice has on a wider scale – in particular its contribution to cyberculture.

Technology affords us the opportunity for change. Is that change necessarily always for the better? Does it remove barriers and expectations that are placed upon us in the physical world and in everyday society?

I think that there is a misconception that with technology comes progress. Sure, we may become faster, smarter and more efficient. But what about the qualities that make us who we are? Kindness, honest. Love?

Is online dating better and more advanced than the traditional method? I’m not so sure.