Songwriting MOOC – An Ethnographic Song

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post of mine I signed up for a MOOC on songwriting 4 weeks ago. While talking to Sian and Jeremy in one of our Hangout sessions she suggested (halfjokingly or not) that I pack my ethnography for block 2 into a song and well, that’s what I did :)

We haven’t gotten to the point in the course yet where we compose a melody but I’ve taken the knowledge I’ve gained so far with respect to lyrical composition, rhymes and rhythms and wrote the lyrics for a song about the MOOC and its community.

While peer reviewing my colleagues’ lyrics as part of the homework assignments I’ve noticed that if you try reading the lyrics rhythmically your mind might create a melody as you go along, so whatever melody you hear in your head that’s the right one 😉

Songwriting MOOC

This MOOC helps you learn how to write a song
Berklee College of Music, six weeks long
Rhythm, rhyme types, melody
Line lengths, boxes, prosody
Doesn’t matter what you write, you can’t do it wrong

Coursera’s MOOC on songwriting
A place for creative flow
Who knew that it could be so exciting
To write a song like a pro

What’s great about this MOOC is its community
Where feedback is a learning opportunity
Discussion forums, peer reviews,
Quizzes, lecture videos
Created with a lot of ingenuity

Coursera’s MOOC on songwriting
A place for creative flow
Who knew that it could be so exciting
To write a song like a pro

The songs you learn from are all up on YouTube
And on there’s always comments from your peer group

Coursera’s MOOC on songwriting
A place for creative flow
Who knew that it could be so exciting
To write a song like a pro

8 thoughts on “Songwriting MOOC – An Ethnographic Song”

  1. Awesome lyrics, and the format is very appropriate. As mentioned in the hangout, writing the song means hitting two (even three) birds with one stone. I hope you will get the chance to add a melody!

  2. Great to see that you did write a song for your ethnographic snapshot! I think I came up with some kind of melody, but it is definitely not worth sharing..

    Super rhyming skills, however I really wanted to see more verses, and more substantive commentary on the particularities of the community you were involved in. I think you started to highlight some key points – in the bridge section around the use of comments in YouTube. Developing this point would be good, and would give your ethnographic activity more in the way of ‘findings’. I would take a look at the other snapshots if you’re unsure about how to document specific content – there are some great examples of including forum posts and other content. The comments are also generating good ideas about particular details to focus on.

    Hope to see some more here Michael, perhaps a remix?

  3. Mihael, thanks for convincing me to take this Songwriting MOOC. I had looked at it previously, but figured that it would be beyond my abilities. But it seems that Berklee College of Music leads you through the songwriting process. Anxious to hear melody with your lyrics. I’m humming two versions as I type: one slow folksy beat, another fast hard rock. I wonder if there is software available to help you do that. Or maybe you could use something like Cheers, PJ

  4. Mihael, innovative way of producing your artifact! I would have liked to hear more about the community aspect and the sort of people who participate in this MOOC, was it generally songwriting novices or were there experienced songwriters who were more than happy to share their tips and techniques?

  5. Thank you everyone for your feedback, I really appreciate it.

    I thought I would share some additional comments about the course and the community that I observed.

    Early on in the course you learn that song writing is all about making choices – what idea do you want to convey and how do you do it? Ideally you have one central idea and everything else supports that central idea while the buildup of the song adds more heft to the central idea – you go from the general to the specific. Since I couldn’t pack nearly as much information as I wanted into the song without breaking its structure and flow I will add some details here that I found out about the MOOC’s community.

    The MOOC uses Coursera’s internal discussion forum system and no attempt is being done by the course organisers to move it to other social networks. The forums itself, however, are highly organised. There are four main forums (General Discussions, Study Groups, Video Lectures and Assignments) and each of these main forums itself has 6 subforums, one for every week of the course. Including the “Signature Track” forum this adds to 29 forums in total. As a result each forum is frequented only rarely as people move from one subforum to the next as the weeks progress.

    As mentioned in my song, the songs we have to analyse as part of our quizzes are available on YouTube (independently uploaded from the course) and it’s interesting to see that in the video comments it’s almost guaranteed that there is at least one mention of “Coursera” to the tune of “Hi from Coursera” or “Coursera brought me here”. These shout outs to fellow course members show a sense of identification with the community within the course. Futhermore, while Coursera is mentioned, I did not see the answers to the questions related to the songs spoiled in the YouTube comments which shows relatively high maturity (for YouTube standards) and a willingness to learn (and letting others learn). The students are mostly novice songwriters with little to no experience in writing songs but many play at least some type of instrument. People were in general very helpful and honest with each other on the forums.

    Analysing the discussion forums on Coursera and other sources like MOOC review sites reveals a major issue that generates a lot of sentiments and reactions: The peer review grading process is under heavy criticism. 40% of the total grade is received from completing multiple choice quizzes while 60% come from peers. Since songwriting is an artform after all people don’t take criticism of their work all too lightly and many showed signs of frustration, especially since feedback is given anonymously and in case a lower grade has been awarded it often lacks proper reasoning. As a result the most discussed forum threads, aside from the one asking students to introduce themselves, are either about expressing discontent with the peer review in general or people asking for higher quality peer feedback that more specifically addresses the issues we are focusing on in our weekly assignments. Overall it looks as though many people are open to sharing their work in the forums and inviting constructive feedback.

    Writing the song was much more challenging than I thought but it was definitely a fun experience. We are now getting into the sections where we are learning how to compose melodies to go with our lyrics and I am looking forward to finding out what software tools are recommended to assist with that.

    I hope this gives a little better insight into the MOOC’s community than the song ever could and I’ll be happy to answer any further questions!

  6. Hi Miheal,

    I made a very short video to express something of the ethos and ‘creative’ purpose of my MOOC (Future Learn, National Film and Television School), so I can very much identify with your approach here. differences between my MOOC and yours were that mine explicitly encouraged participants ‘to take their work outside of the MOOC. It does have third party streams, if you check my mini ethnograph, but it was the fact that one section of the MOOC community went on to set up their own Facebook page with the aim of making a film. Maybe we could do a cross MOOC remix, with your song and melody and my extended film clip (which I’m planning on doing)? Great stuff.

  7. That’s a useful summary of some of the most striking issues being raised regarding the MOOC community – thanks for this – I found it a very helpful accompaniment to the song. With more time, it would be particularly interesting to do a bit more work on the YouTube dimension, as I know there has already been a lot of work conducted on this – investigating the way sociality among the Courserians spilled out onto YouTube, and appeared to take a more supportive approach to exchange than is usual in that particular network, would be fascinating.

    I hope you’ll post an audio recording of the song to EDC, if you ever do compose a melody for it : )

  8. Hi Michael,
    Do the conversations seem to come to an end before you all move on to the next week? Or, do they appear to be left ‘hanging’. I just wonder if the course structure allows for themes and ideas to develop fully?

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