Saturday, July 14, 2012

Produsage and Participation in MOOCs

My colleagues and fellow MRT member, Osvaldo, posted an interesting blog post the other day.  It is interesting in and of itself, but if taken along with the Chronicle's What's the Problem with MOOCs, if gives you a whole other dimension. Osvaldo makes reference to Bonnie Stewart's post (this was new to me, so thank you for the link :-)  ) which is slightly reminiscent of the whole "digital natives" thing in how participants are consuming AND producing.

Osvaldo's post makes reference to the 90-10 rule (or 90-9-1 rule, depending on how you heard it first) where 90% of the participants in some social activity online are lurkers, while 10% are producers (the 90-9-1 rule states 90% lurkers, 9% contributors, 1% creators). and how this is evident in the MOOCs that we have seen thus far. This makes sense, at least from an anecdotal standpoint, from my own experiences in MOOCs.  Granted Change11 was a bit of an aberration because it was SO LONG that I really doubted that it would keep the interest of anyone that wasn't really hard core.

When Change11started I wrote posts on Lurkers and implications (thinking out loud really) and some people seemed to take issue with bringing this point up.  This particular post seemed to have to most discussion about it. In thinking about lurkers, my own posts and the allergic reactions that some have had about discussing the topic and the recent Chronicle post on What's the Problem with MOOCs, where the attrition is mentioned as not being discussed, really made me think more about lurkers.

Osvaldo came to two conclusions:

  • we need to re-define a c-MOOC as courses with an enhanced number of tutors (those 10% active participants) and the rest that retreat to the lurker status.I`m not sure this is connectivism, or 
  • we need to improve the way we deliver c-MOOCs finding ways of including the 90% that lurk to participate.

Osvaldo leans toward the second one.  I think that a combination of both is more realistic.  In my opinion (not substantiated by research at the moment) you won't get the entirety of the open course participants to participate. You just wont.  This is because MOOCs are good for window shoppers - people can join a MOOC the first couple of weeks and then decide to never come back - regardless of whether or not they participated. They are still "registered" but that doesn't mean much when you really think about it.

On the other hand, simply redefining a MOOC for the number of active participants might miss the point. I can just seem someone creating a LIKERT scale on how often and how much people participated in a MOOC, but instead of looking at the qualitative side of their participation (i.e. did they make connections and contribute to the overall well being of the group), they focus on number of posts - which might just be a massive amount of cute kitty and xkcd posts.

The ideal solution, for me anyway, lies somewhere in the middle.  Yes, you SHOULD try to engage as many lurkers as possible in qualitatively good ways, however we need to move past the metric of registrations as a way to evaluate massiveness and look at defining MOOCs, or rather what it means to be Massive, by some other means.
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