16 comments for “Support within MOOCs https://t.co/RuTswuOJ2Z via @bennyhennytweet #mscedc #digitalethnography

  1. Clare
    February 28, 2015 at 8:13 am

    Interesting point of research, Ben.

    Just out of curiosity – to what extent had the community established itself before the poster made their comment?

    • Jeremy Knox
      February 28, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      That’s a really great question Clare. It made me think about how community forms might change over time, perhaps with string or weak bonds, or different numbers of key participants. The potential for any one comment to have a significant effect on the community must then be related to the particular state that community is in. I wonder what this means in the context of MOOCs, which tend to be quite short.

      • bhenderson
        February 28, 2015 at 7:51 pm

        Hi Clare, it was about 1 week into the MOOC. I just found the whole gesture an interesting move. There probably wasnt enough time for bonds to be created between participants.

  2. Ed Guzman
    February 28, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Peer support within a MOOC sounds like a rich area of research. What was your impression about the type of participants who help others? Were they more experienced, or just more helpful? The anecdote about one participant going the extra mile to locate the participant that needed help was quite touching.

    • Jeremy Knox
      February 28, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      Indeed, interesting point Ed. I wondered if one might look at the extent to which participants focus on the course content, or community relations, and if participants tend to choose one over the other. This might be particularly interesting in MOOCs, due to the ‘openness’, and perhaps then less of an incentive to complete the assessed elements.

    • bhenderson
      February 28, 2015 at 7:54 pm

      Hi Ed, it think there was a strong ‘geeking’ culture in the MOOC and it seemed the more expereinced participants were more than willing to share their knowledge. I also thought the participant who researched the ‘unconfident’ participant was a lovely act.

  3. Jeremy Knox
    February 28, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Super to see that you got some useful responses to your questionnaire. It’s great to see this ‘active’ seeking of data alongside some of the other ethnographies that have focussed on observation.

    It would have been great to see more in the way of analysis here though. ‘Who’ were these participants who responded; were they active forum posters? Were they involved in any of the other supportive responses? The line of Ed’s questioning was interesting here too. I wondered *how* these people asserted themselves as experts, as people able to give advice. Is this just about being supportive, or also about positioning yourself as dominant in the discussion? Perhaps relating this to some of the community roles discussed by Kozinets might have given you some ideas about how to structure that kind of analysis.

    I thought the initial idea of ‘craving’ support was really interesting – something that also seemed to be apparent in Emlyn’s snapshot, in the form of soliciting ’empathy’. So, does this community *need* that kind of response in order to be cohesive? Might MOOC communities in general be silent and ‘dry’ without these kind of responses. What does that say about ‘community’ in general?

    • bhenderson
      February 28, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      Hi Jeremy, thanks for the comments.

      The questionaire was anonyous so Im unsure of who contributed, however the responses I did receive were quite useful even though I would have hoped to received a few more.

      There are certainly traits of Kozinets community roles within the discussion forums including the ‘newbie who has strong communal ties’ and the mingler.

      MOOCs maybe dry without these sort of interactions, however, I have also been in traditional classrooms which have also been dry and silent, it possibly relies on the good conversation flow and a shared interest between participants. So maybe the question is more about community interactions in general rather than the medium they are established within.

  4. Em
    March 1, 2015 at 2:09 am

    Hi Ben,

    Great piece of work here. I encountered some similar aspects within my MOOC as well. Lack of direction for participants to formulate discussion or offer support. Did you find any instances of participants trying to meet up with each other outside of the MOOC? Many of the participants in my group have tried to venture out to other virtual spaces.

    • bhenderson
      March 1, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Hi Em, I didnt find any instances of participants communicating (or iniitiating conversation) outside the MOOC. Its interesting that on during your MOOC experience participants created their own sub-communities. I wonder whether this was due to the convenience of another platform as the current MOOC discussion forum was insuffienct.

  5. PJ
    March 1, 2015 at 6:38 am

    Ben, good on you for being so ‘bold’ in your ethnographic approach as to distribute a questionnaire to MOOC participants early in the course and to actually get some substantive responses. I did not see how
    / if you got explicit permission from the organizers to do so. I would be interested how the organizers responded, if you did. Or, conversely, if you shared your interim results with them. It would be interesting to follow up later in the course to see how opinions changed over the duration of the course.

    I think our ethnographic interests for this project were closely similar. Although, I initially started out in a different direction looking at previous ‘expertise,’ I observed a level of ‘sociality’ in my ScanFilmTV MOOC; that I think you label as ‘craving’ for support and empathy. I distinguish between ‘sociality’ as an interest in forming and belonging to a community, from ‘sociability’ which is more like instances of sociable behavior. In my study, this behavior was evident by one discussion forum poster who expressed sympathy to Danish friends in the MOOC and the Univ of Copenhagen organizers for the recent shootings in Copenhagen. This expression of sympathy had nothing to do with the course content, but
    this became a ‘rallying point’ and earned the participant position as a ‘top forum poster.’ I think our cursory research corroborates the proposition that MOOC participants may be looking for more than just course content from the MOOC; e.g., seeking fellowship with ‘kindred spirits’ with similar interests. Cheers, PJ

    • bhenderson
      March 1, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Hi PJ, I didnt ask for approval from the MOOC moderators, I basically fired a link to a short Google Doc questionaire and hoped for the best. Even if it got taken down I could have focused my attention on gatekeeping within MOOCs and changed the original ethnography focus.

      Great ethnography by the way, really intriguing and artsy in the format. As a lover of foreign film, it was great to see some new movies to put on my ‘to see’ list.

      I think you totally right in suggesting ‘participants may be looking for more than just course content from the MOOC’, a sense of camaraderie and ‘fellowship’ its just as important as the content for that group of participants


  6. mprowse
    March 3, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Very late comment here Ben, but both on topic of peer support and fellowship, this was a characteristic of my MOOC (National Film and Television School), interestingly, this came in the form of encouragement to join an external group (to the MOOC) the purpose of which was to make a group film. there was also clear evidence of Kozinets roles within this group dynamic within my study too. Realy enjoyed your artefact, thanks.

    • bhenderson
      March 4, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      Thanks for the comment Miles. ‘Fellowship’ is a nice way to describe these sort of communities.

  7. njenkins
    March 3, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    Hi Ben
    I agree this is a really interesting artefact, and the whole issue of peer support in MOOCs is fascinating. Makes me wonder what if any provision is there for learners who experience ‘flaming’ and other negative interactions – which is entirely possible given the numbers of participants involved. Do MOOC tutors have some duty of care to MOOC participants?
    All the best

  8. bhenderson
    March 4, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Good question Nick, I wonder how often these sort ‘incidents’ occur during MOOCs and what is the tutors role? Facilitator, moderator, educator or all 3? To what level the moderation occurs depends on the size of the course and the different discussion tools available. If a participant is receiving abuse via PM then is this punishable within a MOOC environment (exclusion or a warning for example)?


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