Been busy

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Really busy. Too busy. Heartbreakingly, eyewateringly, soul suckingly busy for the last….month it seems, so #etmooc has been on the backburner with me.

Connections ossify, rhizomes curl up and die, and my own work throws curveballs like a tobacco chewer spits blood.

I’ve got some takeaway lessons from #etmooc, that I’d like feedback on, if anyone still listens to the adrift ramblings of my somewhat marooned mind.

I’d like to run one of these things next year, seriously, for educators.

So, with that in moind, here’s a short, tired, raddled look at what the experience has taught me. If you feel anything should be added to the list, please feel free to do so. I’m far from the kind of copmpetence I;d like to list make on this at the moment, and I can;t see myself being that sane this side of summer. Still, here goes…

      Treat your users kindly. Make it clear where things are, do a good job of getting them up to speed with what they will need to know.


      Make sure people know it’s a guilt free endeavour. You don;t have to so everything, and even if you think you do, you don;t have to do it all now. Things will be archived, recorded, made available and visible.


      Plan a good structure, a central column around which everything can revolve. So, a series of tasks, activities, events and seminars around which people can weave their connections, and scaffold themselves, their learning, and their comments. Make sure it’s something that’s flexible, ignorable, and useful.


      Structure your activities so they can be accessed by as wide a variety as possible, and appeal to a variety of expertise types.


      Make available resources so tech unsavvy participants have the tools they need to engage. Make these available, transparent, and clearly labelled well in advance – ideally your users will have time in advance to familiarise.


      Give good advice in your welcome message, and make sure your welcome message gets sent (this seems a common MOOC bug)/


      Be awqare of the likely tech issues in advance, and plan for them (eg Java problems/ platform issues with collaborate, problems within collaborate with web tours and app sharing, collaborate lag and how that effects sessions, q+a and interactivity, users being deluged with messages in Google +, not being aware of Tweetdeck and Hootsuite for tweetchats – that last one is minor)


      Publicise, advertise, connect and recruit, well in advance. You may get 1500 signups, but a small percentage of those will be active, and a potentially tiny amount will be core.


      Support your speakers. The mods in collaborate often made the difference in sessions.


      Engage meaningfully with your users, and with their positive and critical commentary.


      Be enthusiastic, competent, passionate and encouraging. Engage with your community in the manner you want them to engage with each other. Model that behaviour, ala Bandura. Cheerlead often.


      Value and utilise your co-collaborators. Good ones add immeasurably to everyone’s experience. Immeasurably.


      Ruthlessly mine the community you make for resources, engagement, encouragement, artefacts, additional seminars.


      Use the tools you are suggesting people use to connect to reward, highlight and spotlight. The sun that is your attention can cause things to grow.


      et comfortable with the idea that you might be wrong. Minimise the possibility that you are as much as possible. Alter behaviour, ideas, and structures, and listen to your users. Acknowledge conversations that are critical with both attention and action.


    Get good speakers. Ones who are actually involved with the community are a huge plus. Sue Waters I’m thinking. Herculean work in finding, commenting, posting, helping, giving seminars, and popping up all over the place.


  1. That is an excellent list of elements and it reflects the experience I’ve had as well. Of late #ETMOOC has been more than back burner for me … one might say it has been in the fridge … but jumping back on to the front burner is easy because I don’t feel any pressure to “catch up”. The come as you are, come as you can, approach and kindness of the organizers and the community make it a rich learning environment.

  2. wiltwhatman says:

    That’s a good summary Jeannine, and a positive way of looking at it.

    It also makes me think of the type of learner a cMOOC fits most with – motivated, capable of acting as a resource for others, and as a self directed learner – part of the deal involved in switching between on the boil and backburner…

  3. Great summary, Keith. I would really, really emphasize the point that it’s not at all necessary or expected to do everything. Somehow that message got through well with etmooc; I’m not sure exactly how. I think it was in some of the pages explaining each topic, making clear that people can only do one or two of the list of things suggested if they want; it was also emphasized by people in Twitter and G+ when participants expressed feeling overwhelmed. Often it was other participants saying so, which is great because there’s only so much that facilitators can and should have to do in terms of contributing to conversations.

    And that’s one other thing I wanted to mention: as facilitators, co-conspirators, what have you, I agree it’s important to engage with the community to some extent, to encourage, cheerlead, point to things that are thought-provoking, what have you. But ideally, I think it’s best to try to cultivate a sense among the community that most of that sort of interaction and engagement is and should be on their shoulders. It shouldn’t be mostly up to the facilitators. Again, somehow that worked in etmooc; maybe starting with the topic of connected learning and emphasizing the need to make comments on blogs helped. The conspirators are active participants in the community and discussions, but one doesn’t have to, and perhaps shouldn’t, think of them as more than fellow interlocutors, just like the rest of us.

    How do you help facilitate the development of a community that supports and cheerleads and engages in critical commentary itself? I’m not sure, but I think that’s important.

  4. wiltwhatman says:

    Thanks Christine,

    I think every point you make here hits home.

    Looking at my recent reading, the modelling function of moderators, instructors, and particular participants seemd importnat in establishing the community dynamics.

    If instructors, moderators, and high profile participants commented, acted, and engaged in a poarticular way, it’s likely to have a huge influence on forming the community dynamic.

    And you are absolutely right – this has to be done in such a way as to encourage other’s to engage in that way.

    That’s not the whole story though.

    I’ve a lot more thinking to do before I get a clear sense of how that works in practice.

    It’s a part of the course design – as you point out. It’s in part in the tools you use, and how you create the structures which frame the student engagement. It’s about your demographiuc, and their motivation. It’s about the utility of the course – what it’s for, and how you describe that.

    It’s about good descriptors, it’s about using your focus as an instructor to highlight good practice.

    It’s about mirroring your desired dynamic in your own seminar style, and in the style of other’s.

    It’s also, I think, about providiing a positive and successful experience for students of the dynamic you want, so that experience makes them feel welcme, secure, and wanting to perpetuate the positive learning experience.

    It’s alo about having a community where it’s safe, pleasureable, and effective to engage in a particular way.

    There’s a lot more I need to think about here, to get a good sense, but Alec et al have given me a good amount to chew on.

    Putting the

  5. Keith – this is another post that is filled with food for thought – you have pushed my thinking in #etmooc – I have learned so much from you. Thank you for sharing many of the things that have been swirling around in my head :–)

    • wiltwhatman says:

      Thanks Valerie.

      I hope your projects at home prove fruitful – I’ve no doubt, given the drive, thoughtfulness and reflection you’ve shown in etmooc that your plans will develop and fruit. I’ll keep an eye out for edtech developments from you…

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