A Slow MOOC Movement

This post outlines seven forms of support for learning that makes use of online tools.  Following an emphasis on balance over abundance, the sequence of forms conveys a movement towards a “slow MOOC” approach analogous to the ideals of the slow food movement‘s constructive resistance to fast food.

First, some background on the abundance-balance contrast.  Dave Cormier, stated as the key questions of the P2PU MOOC on Rhizomatic learning:

What happens if we let that[*] go? What happens when we approach a learning experience and we don’t know what we are going to learn? Where each student can learn something a little bit different – together? What if we decided to trust the idea that people can come together to learn given the availability of an abundance of perspective, of information and of connection?

* =decisions, in advance, about what it is important for students to learn + check[ing] if they all did and compar[ing] them against each other.

In contrast, my view of balance:

Envisage the google+ [*] community as a container, a space that you enter and leave mindfully. That is, set limits and give yourself a structure so involvement in the community does not lead you to feel swamped or fragmented or unsure that you can synthesize or keep in mind all the interesting items you are coming across. To this end, you might allow yourself a delimited amount of time per day, say 30 minutes, to explore online offerings or sharings but you would also preserve an equal amount of time (preferably when you are fresh at the start of the day) to gather your thoughts based on whatever is currently in view or in mind, which may be quite different from what you have to do for your work or project or studies. Such “refractive practice,” in which you give yourself space to “connect, probe, and reflect,” makes it less likely that you feel left behind when you don’t follow or respond to every thread that is offered, however worthwhile they seem at first sight (adapted from http://bit.ly/1dQJh8p).

* or facebook or connectivist-MOOC


Co-exploration (MOOC-feed) circle(proposal) I create a personal MOOC-feed circle on google+, share what I choose with that circle (even though they may have seen it already through my posts to some wider community for a MOOC), and check what the members of the circle are sharing (even though that will include stuff not specifically addressed to me).
People in my MOOC-feed circle don’t have to do anything special. But they can choose to create their own personal MOOC-feed circle (including me) and do the same as I describe above.
…. With tag #mx then your initials I add tags to what I share on google+, one for each member of a circle I want to share with around a given MOOC.  The tags consist of #mx followed by person’s initials.  I ask each member to add #mxpt to anything they share with me. Then I can search for that tag to get a customized subset of what is being shared by members of my circle. The limit to the circle size is no longer 5, but how many hashtags I want to have to add to each sharing.
MetaMOOC coaching(post) A group of “learning coaches” make themselves available through hangout “Events” on a g+ community for a MOOC that they are involved in.  Whoever joins an event would be led by the coach through the 5-phase process (http://bit.ly/FivePhase) to think, listen, and share about whichever of these five steps is pertinent.
Collaborative Explorations prospectus: http://cct.wikispaces.com/CEpportal: http://collabex.wikispaces.com An extension of Project-Based Learning (PBL) and related approaches to education that begin from a real-world scenario or case in which the problems are not well defined, which invites participants to shape their own directions of inquiry and develop their skills as investigators and teachers (in the broadest sense of the word). The basic mode of a CE centers on interactions over a delimited period of time in small groups—online or face-to-face—in ways that create an experience of re-engagement with oneself as an avid learner and inquirer.
Coexploration outside a MOOC Like co-exploration above, but continuing beyond any MOOC we might be involved in.
Support Circles(proposal) The overall ethic is that people in support circles find ways to support others to do the best work they can given the circumstances (which are often constrained). Support circles arise when you take the initiative to recruit over the course of a year 5-6 people for a one-year, renewable relationship of mutual support, in which these people also agree to establish their own support circles over the course of a year (and so on).
Personal inquiry group A variant of Collaborative Explorations and Support Circles combined with a bit more self-centeredness.  I identify an overall area of inquiry that I want to focus on and invite a small circle to join me and to stimulate and support each other (or, at least, to support me).  The members of the circle agree each year to define a CE case with me that connects the overall area of inquiry with their own interests, to host that CE, and to participate in at least 3 others.  The CEs will meet every other week for 4 sessions.  Non-CE-related support may be requested in between CE sessions.



About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

8 Responses to A Slow MOOC Movement

  1. Teryl says:

    I really like the varieties of engagement and levels of connections. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Ron says:

    Thanks for sharing these ideas with us.

  3. balimaha says:

    I appreciate what you are trying to do here and i think it might work for some ppl uncomfortable with chaos but i tend to find it too structured. I also tend to be concerned about how to pick ppl (as i said in an earlier post of yours) – but i think i might like the personal inquiry option because it builds the group based around common interests.
    I also like the hashtag idea, but why not use the ping function of G+ anyway? It already does that. Or do you see that working differently?

  4. I do not know the ping function–can you point me to it? Thanks.

    What constitutes structure and how it is perceived (or not) is an interesting issue (extending well beyond these suggestions for online interaction into social theory)….

    • balimaha says:

      Hi Peter. Am not a big user of google plus but have seen people say “i am pinging so and so +FirstnameLastname” – i.e. tagging them on a post, the same way u do on facebook and twitter via @username – have seen it done and referred to as a ping but never used it myself

      • I do know pinging, but I did not know what it was called! Now I have to think about your question: pinging vs. tags..

      • balimaha says:

        Do u use twitter? It is much easier to get sthg if a person mentions u by name @bali_maha than by a hashtag (esp if u follow many such hashtags). Having a special hashtag of ur own as u suggest narrows that a bit but u would have to search that tag. If it is a ping, u get notified of it automatically

      • The point of the #mx hashtags would be a) for a circle of people to, in effect, ping you only on posts related to the specific area you are connected on and b) for you to check for pings only on that topic. This is in the slow mooc spirit, which emphasizes ability to focus and digest over abundance. Of course, it remains to be seen whether the kind of people who post actively during MOOCs can sustain such a circle and remember the hashtags. I’ll let you know if we do a test run.

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