Week 5 – Lifestream Synthesis

Things have progressed a little slower than I would have liked this week – mainly because I had a bad cold and a busy week at work. I have however, made some pleasing progress with the course readings.

I found the Kozinets (2010) chapter very interesting and could relate to it by comparing my own experiences – of which I have blogged about. The aspects of online communities that he referenced in his publication is of high relevance to the themes that I am hoping to investigate with my micro-ethnography. I spent a little time investigating communities out with a learning environment to understand the dynamic and interaction between members of different online communities. I was able to reinforce some key themes raised by both Kozinets (2010) and Stewart (2013).

I have made some important progress with the ethical considerations for my micro-ethnography in contacting the MOOC facilitator and provider to obtain permission to conduct my research. The responses that I received would perhaps suggest that requests of this nature are quite common. I shared my findings with my peers via the Digital Education Hub in case they could be of any help to anyone else enrolled on a FutureLearn course. I am now confident that I have covered all angles and am ready to progress with my research. It is my intention, however, to check with James and Jeremy just to make sure.

I also enjoyed another group tutorial this week. I always find it really useful to hear other students thoughts and opinions around digital communities and use it as an ideal opportunity to ask my tutors questions.


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

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


Comparing communities – The MOOC and Mumsnet

I have not long finished the Kozinets chapter entitiled ‘Understanding Culture Online’, Netnography: doing ethnographic research online‘ and found it very easy to relate to some of the observations that he noted throughout his studies.

Over the past decade I have been a member of different online communities ranging from personal interests (such as football related forums) to work-related groups (such as user forums). Until completing the Kozinets chapter I hadn’t ever really stopped to think about the dynamic of each community and the types of relationships that members within them form.

“How deep, long-lasting, meaningful and intense are those relationships? Are these people considered to be merely somewhat-interesting strangers, or are they long term friends that are as close to the participant as anyone else in their life?” (Kozinets, 2010, p 32).

This quote has been ringing in my ears since I read it. For me, the answer to this question influences the formation of a community and the development of a natural synergy.

Anyway, whilst lying in bed the other evening I spent some time reading through my Twitter timeline and eventually went down the rabbit hole (randomly diving into random conversation threads without any clear idea of where I was going) and stumbled on a link to a conversation thread on a parenting community called Mumsnet. In this thread there were several parents debating their opinion of a particular topic started by a current member. As the debate went on people were challenging, agreeing, disagreeing, dismissing, and praising each other based on their contributions to the thread. There was a level of interaction that allowed other members to consider changing their own opinion or forming new ones based on the experience and opinions of others.

In contrasting the Mumsnet community with the ‘Internet of Things’ MOOC community the difference is immediately noticeable despite having striking similarities. Both communities make use of discussion forums and both forums take a Q and A approach. In Mumsnet, a member asks a question and peers reply. In the MOOC the tutor asks a question and the students reply. Yet there is a distinct lack of interaction in the MOOC.

Could this be because of the reason that people join these communities?

When considering virtual worlds, Kozinets (2010) suggests that they are “structured so that social intercourse is the primary pursuit and objective” and that communities will therefore naturally form through discussion and interaction. However, a MOOC’s primary pursuit and objective, it could be argued, is personal interest and gain where social interaction plays a lesser role. Maybe this is the reason I am noticing such differences despite their similarities.

This is something that I will definitely be considering when conducting my micro-ethnography.


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

I’ll leave you with these (rather humerous) observations of the Mumsnet community that I sourced from Twitter:

Twitter comments
Twitter comments


Ethical considerations – Requesting permission from facilitator and provider

Ethical considerations – Requesting permission from facilitator and provider

I have been considering the ethical implications on my research when conducting my micro-ethnography. I have not quite managed to finish all of the core readings for this block yet, and I am aware the Marshall (2014) reading will more than likely provide further points for consideration. However I thought I would make contact with both the course facilitator and the course provider to investigate how to obtain permission to conduct my observations. I was encouraged by the responses that I recieved from both parties: (identities have been deliberately concealed)



I would like to extend my thank to both parties for granting permission.


Marshall, S. (2014). Exploring the ethical implications of MOOCs. Distance Education 35(2): pp. 250-262.

Tags: Ethics
February 17, 2017 at 10:19PM
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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.


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.