MOOCs and CoPs – A Tale of Two Courses

Copyright: PresenterMedia

Copyright: PresenterMedia 2013

Resurrection indeed?My blog post from May 2012 suggested that there was a danger in resurrecting this blog because I might get “sucked into the blogging vortex….unable to detach myself from the Web 2.0 shackles”. Evidently no such dangers lurked. I have only written 4 posts since then! This blog is like the resurrection plant (honestly, it does exist because I saw it on David Attenborough’s Africa).  It dries up and dies and then with a few drops of rain the dormant seeds are sown and up it pops again, alive and vibrant and striving towards the sun.

So the rain has arrived and the the call to blog has come knocking at my door.  It is morphing into something else. From dialogue to monologue in one fell swoop. This is because I have the need to reflect on a lot that is going on this month.

I suggest the next few posts will be my spontaneous and rather haphazard reflections of two very different learning experiences I am participating in. I am intrigued to be enrolled on my first free Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) in eLearning and Digital Cultures (along with 35,000 others) and it has already got me thinking about the Faustian bargain we make with technology as I consider the perceived dystopian and utopian landscape it creates.

All technology is a Faustian bargain…since media trade-offs are by
definition cultural trade-offs…In other words, if all technologies are
attempts to solve problems or to make lives easier, then it is essential to
recognise that these attempts will also bring about problems of their own
(Gencarelli, 2000, p.98).

It is strange that on the same day I watch this thought-provoking clip on Bendito Machine 3 which surely illuminates a dystopian view of the human adoration and obsession with technology I find myself attending the Learning Technologies Exhibition 2013 which sells me the utopian vision that technological evangelists and innovators would have us believe is there for the taking – with a price I add! What a paradox I find myself in.

But then again I have always sat on the fence in relation to the benefits and impact technology has on society and culture – which is peculiar for someone in my line of work. Of course, I believe technological innovation and development is necessary. It makes life easier, more fun, more engaging, more worthwhile, less arduous and of course it saves lives. No-one wishes to turn back the clock on research and developments in medicine. Yet, some people would undoubtedly welcome a slower pace of change when it comes to everyday technology that affects the lives of our younger people. The controversy over the Facebook generation tethered to their networks and hooked on their games incapable of what is considered normal, face to face, social interaction with others is highlighted in Turkle’s article The Flight from Conversation (2012). There is so much more I can add to this debate. I won’t even mention Professor Susan Greenfield’s take on social media for what some critics denounce as “berating our culture for sleepwalking into an Internet-fuelled social apocalypse” (Steele, 2009). However, a more light-hearted conversation can be found here, between Nicholas Carr who wrote The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains (2010) and Stephen Fry (who as you know is a devotee of technology).

I have also started to wet my feet in the waters of another onlince course with the Social Learning Centre.  My interest in this course stems from my own research on the CoP model of learning proposed by Etienne Wenger (1998) and the notion of Siemen’s and connectivism highlighted by Siemens and Downes. I am paying a small fee for this online course (lasting about as long as the MOOC) but I believe the participants are nearer to 40. I am really looking forward to learning about how to nurture a community of practice as I am hoping to launch my own next month. I have entitled this Stepping into Web 2.0: A Rite of Passage for Educators in which participants will blog as part of a community of practice in which they reflect and hopefully revisit how they learn (improved metacogntion).

How interesting therefore? A tale of two courses, side by side, my fingers in both pies, one perhaps smaller, sweeter and home-made, the other a fusion of different ingredients, baked for the masses. And I get to taste both. More metaphors about food. I must stop it. Although I still like my idea of the Tapas Menu offering a smorgasbord of Web 2.0 tidbits!

It is not my intention to compare these two courses because they are too different . However my blog posts will no doubt dig deep into my engagement and interaction with them. The concept of Rhizomatic Learning within the MOOC is something I wish to explore and this self-managed learning, wearing a nomadic hat, will be both chaotic and challenging.  So these ramblings will hopefully act as an aide memoir and may also help contribute to the assessments I have to do for both (yikes).

A post script about today’s Learning Technologies conference which deserves more than the cursory comment I made above. I observed a similar golden thread running through some of the seminars I was able to hear snippets of which made me hopeful for 2013. There were quite a few discussions about learning and development practices being less about content and tick boxes and more about people. At last! Once we take a holistic view about learning and development and allow learners to contribute to their own learning and the learning of others we are one step closer to success.


Downes, S., (2012) Connectivism and Connective Knowledge: Essays on Meaning  and Learning Networks [online] Available at: [Accessed 1  February 2013]

Cormier, D., (2011) Rhizomatic Learning – Why we teach? [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 February 2013]

Gencarelli, T.F., (2009) The intellectual roots of media ecology in the work and
thought of Neil Postman. New Jersey Journal of Communication Vol. 8, No.
1, pp.91-103

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge University Press

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