Week 6 – Weekly Synthesis

I’be spent much of my time this week “lurking” in my MOOC looking for some inspiration to base my micro-ethnography on. I’ve been toying with a couple of idea throughout the week but still remain slightly indecisive. The Baggaley (2014) reading had me considering taking a metaphoric approach to my ethnography, however the Fournier et al (2014) paper had me fascinated by the idea that a community within a MOOC is fabricated by a rich and complex mass of people with differing motivations and agendas – and as such, I feel it may be better to study it on it’s own merits.

Anyway, I call this week’s theme “Backstage”. I have been trying to look under the bonnet of my MOOC and turn my attentions to what could be going on behind the scenes rather than what first meets the eye. This was prompted by me noticing some behaviours of MOOC participants that would suggest that they are there for other reasons than to learn about IoT.  The course leader kindly informed me that a whopping 8566 people are currently enrolled on the MOOC. Based on this I was able to put the size of the discussion forums into perspective and appreciate just now many “lurkers” and “newbies” are taking a passive interest in the MOOC.

I’ve also been considering what influence (if any) factors such as course design, activities and assessment are having on the community. I have  noticed some closed question discussion forum prompts that are making communications between learners difficult. However I have noticed that the learners with the most “likes” on their comments often pose questions and offer experience of their own to start discussions of their own. This probably explains why I often think of the IoT MOOC as a connectivist/constructivist hybrid.


Baggaley, J. (2014). MOOCs: digesting the facts. Distance Education 35(2): pp. 159-163.

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


By: eappleby-donald

That is a fantastic point about what’s going on behind the scenes Stuart. I’ve been very guilty of labelling this course as insular and complaining of the lack of engagement from my peers towards a more shall I say social, discursive style? But as you say, there is more going on behind the scenes that we are not all party too. Because I’m not a big twitter fan and find it hard to have a conversation there, I probably miss out on a lot of the interaction that is going on.

In terms of the MOOCs, mine definitely has this, the fora on the actual MOOC are rarely used, but there is a facebook group which is a lot more active. I think I will be basing my netnography on 3 areas, the MOOC fora, the facebook group and a RL camera class as a comparison. That’s my current thought anyway, it could all change.

As for skype chats, definitely, need to do more. Linzi and I were chatting yesterday about making it a regular thing and maybe setting a topic each time to keep us on track? What do you guys think?

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By: Stuart Milligan

Hi Eli,

I enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed the Skype session on Thursday.

“It got me thinking about how individual we all are and how we all have different needs.”

That is exactly what I took away from the conversation.

It is interesting to compare how we have been interacting on this course with the observations we are making of the interactions within our MOOCs. I hope I don’t miss anything in my ethnography by taking everything at face value.

It would be easy to look at the Education and Digital Cultures site and presume that we are all compiling our Lifestream blogs and occasionally commenting on each others posts. Where as in reality and behind the scenes we are Skyping, Tweeting, emailing, private messaging, using Hangouts etc – and in doing so created another “layer” (almost) of a community.

I hope that this isn’t going on behind the scenes in my MOOC without me being aware of it, as I find it all incredibly fascinating and would love to make it the focus of my ethnography.

Thanks again for your time the other night! It was good to catch up. Let’s do it again soon.


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“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.

By: smilligan

Hi Helen,

I was interested to read this post and to read of your experience with FutureLearn. I can relate to the feeling of being a needle in a haystack when it comes to making comments and contributions to discussion threads within the MOOC.

I wonder if other learners within the course notice this feeling. I also wonder what influence this feeling has on the overall participation and experience of learning within a MOOC.

I liked your idea of updating your profile to notify others of your micro-ethnography. I hope you don’t mind but I followed your lead on that.

Good read.


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