Drawing people into Collaborative Explorations

Collaborative Explorations (CEs) are an extension of Problem- or Project-Based Learning and related approaches to education in which participants address a scenario or case in which the problems are not well defined, shaping their own directions of inquiry.  (More details at http://cct.wikispaces.com/CE)  Online CEs have been running since early 2013 and seem well appreciated by participants.  This post floats some ideas about how to draw more people into CEs.


  1. Not everyone who registers for the CE joins the g+ community and participates in the CE.
  2. Not everyone who starts the CE follows through on the commitment made in registering (i.e., come to 1st session and 2 of the other 3).
  3. #2 means that the autobiographical introductions of session 1 are shared with some people who do not stay in and build the 4-week CE community.
  4. Few people have been drawn into a CE connected to a connectivist-MOOC (c-MOOC).
  5. The most active people on c-MOOCs seem content (perhaps “addicted”) to a twitterish-scale brevity, frequency, and off-the-cuff-ness.  These people are often involved in educational technology not simply in the topic of the MOOC.  They and other not-so-active participants appreciate the shared links and sometimes create blog posts that show how they are digesting what is discussed and shared.
  6. Some of the not-so-active c-MOOC participants indicate that they are not getting that much from the twitterish-scale exchanges or shared links, but it doesn’t follow that they jump at the invitation to join a CE or establish a balance between input and digestion (see no. 6 in tips for g+ community life).

Possible approaches to drawing more people into the CEs:

A. Slight modifications of CE arrangements:

  1. Emphasize at the start of each session that what is shared is not for wider sharing or attribution.
  2. Set the CE time to fit schedules of those who register, but share an initial session of the CE more publicly.  Have that initial publicly shared event start 15 minutes before and as a separate hangout from the 60-minute session.  The idea is to a. draw in people who want to experience something before registering; and b. carry them over directly from the 15 minutes into the CE proper.
  3. During that 15 minutes, a. do a warm-up freewrite and check-in on the case; b. provide the real session’s hangout URL on the stipulation anyone joining or watching the streamed version abides by #7; and c. explain that registration is needed to join the private g+ community and to be informed of the URLs for subsequent sessions.  At the start of the 60-minute session, inform people that #7 has been emphasized, but participants need to take into account #3.

B. Collaborate with a high profile MOOC:

  1. Get a high-profile and large-catchment MOOC to agree to an experiment: During signup for the MOOC, students would be asked whether they want to participate in a facilitated small learning community within the MOOC that meets on hangout for 60 minutes each week for weeks 2-5 of the course. The overarching topic of the small learning communities would be “exploring how to support deep learning — for ourselves and others — during a MOOC.”
  2. Those who say yes go would to a google form to indicate times that they prefer and times that are possible and to specify whether they want to apprentice as a facilitator.  The CE organizers would have to be prepared to divide up hosting these small learning communities using the CE structure and processes and to train the apprentices.
  3. Around week 4, invite apprentices to create and advertize their own g+ communities for weeks 6-9 using the CE structure and processes, specifying topic and/or hangout time.  (Of course, the apprentices or anyone in the small learning communities — indeed, anyone in the MOOC as a whole — is free to establish a g+ community at any time using whatever model they choose.)

About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see bit.ly/pjtaylor). He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (bit.ly/tbhblog)

One Response to Drawing people into Collaborative Explorations

  1. Pingback: Emergent co-exploration in c-MOOCs: A proposal | Probe—Create Change—Reflect

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