Reflections on the #edcmooc (Part 2)

This is the second of 2 blog posts on my critical reflection of the E-learning and Digital Cultures Coursera course with the University of Edinburgh.

Tutor Presence

One of the most interesting things to come out of the #edcmooc was a post from an anonymous participant in an EDCMOOC discussion forum thread entitled “Where are the professors?” which ran along the lines of:

As far as I can see, this course is some kind of reading , viewing videos and interpreting things about digital culture… but somehow I feel like doing this all on my own without any assistance or guidance from professors and being really “in” the course… where is my teacher? I think I could do this any time on my own, but where is the guideline, where is my teacher?

Although the information relating to the design of the course was made quite explicitly clear, in my view, saying that the “course will not be taught via a series of video lectures” and that the “teachers will be present in the discussion forums and in various other media environments“. I think it was clear to the course designers that participants on the course would converge into a “learner-led group formation, and the use of social media to build personal learning networks and communities of peers“. The comment made by the anonymous poster and the subsequent replies to it clearly resonated with the tutors (Ross, 2013; Sinclair, 2013) as online “presence” and “embodiment” lies at the very heart of what they do on the wholly online MSc course that they teach on. Certainly, on the very first term, the MSc student got to read and consider Hubert L. Dreyfus‘ 2001 book, “On the Internet“,  where he argued that students could only learn from teachers in situ, rather than ex situ, or else they would not pick on the most nuanced, subtlest and intangible of stimuli (Dreyfus, 2001) (see my November 2007 post for more about this). Blake (2002), on the other hand felt that Dreyfus “lacked the imagination” and rather missed the point; especially as Blake had taught predominately online.

Personally, I felt that the tutors had a “presence” on the course that gently and subtly manifested itself in the way that they introduced the topics and the questions that they posed for us to consider. Equally, their “presence” on Twitter, the Coursera discussion forums and through their team blog suggested that they were watching and listening to us in a custodial way. I believe the point of this particular MOOC was to empower the participants to make sense of the materials presented individually and collaboratively, learning by ourselves and with others. This is particularly important as each participant come with their own highly individualised and unique set of experiential, cultural and geographical values, beliefs and contexts which, I think, makes for a much richer and diverse learning experience.

Teaching Associates

One of the delights for me was to see the MSc students who were taking the full-blown E-learning and Digital Cultures module within the MSc in Digital Education to have this fantastic opportunity to become a “teacher” on an authentic, live and actual massive open online course and to have them interact with a cohort that was literally made up of thousands upon thousands of people. I think they coped remarkably well with it. What a great idea!

MOOC Demographics and Open Education

Given that MOOCs tend to be free, voluntary and do not require any mandatory qualifications or certificates,  you kind of wonder what kind of people would take this opportunity up. Indeed, organisations like Khan Academy, MIT Open Courseware, The Open University’s OpenLearn, MERLOT and JORUM have been making their academic and intellectual capital available for free for people to use, re-use or re-purpose. The Open University notched up 40 million downloads of their iTunesU content in 2011 (Coughlan, 2011), with some of those casual users enrolling on to OU courses off the back of the quality of the OU’s content. Something, I am sure, the University of Edinburgh will want to capitalise on with their MOOC venture.

Sian Bayne, one of the tutors on the #edcmooc, published some interesting statistics on how the EDCMOOC was faring. The course had 42,570 enrolled participants, with 12,000 of them being active in the first week before dropping to 7,000 active participants by the third week. Around 60% of the participants were female (this could possibly be down to the nature of the course as well as more women wishing to continue with further education). Roughly 36% of the participants were in the 23-34 years of age bracket. 60% were employed in the Education sector in some shape or form. Finally, around 61% of them had a postgraduate qualification (Bayne, 2013a; Bayne 2013b).

Similarly, Tucker Balch, who ran a course called Computational Investing Part I via Coursera, recorded that 53,205 participants had enrolled on his course with 2,535 of them completing it. Of those who had completed the course, the average age of his participants were 35 years old and 92% of them were male (the nature of the course may well have a bearing on this). Interestingly, 70% were white and around 11% of the completing participants held PhDs (Balch, 2013).

Despite the open and all-inclusive nature of the MOOC, it seems that for some it is seen as a tool for the elitist few with topics and subject disciplines that only really appeal to professional, university-educated people. Would this still be the case of the MOOCs offered vocational subjects like catering, plumbing or car maintenance? Would we see a much more inclusive spread of our demographic if there were courses that actually appealed to them?

With the best intentions in the world for open education, it would seem that it has a very long way to go in trying to cater for everyone (or nearly everyone) in order to become truly inclusive.

“Love Letter”

For my final digital artefact, which will be peer assessed this week, I constructed a digital story using Creative Commons licensed images and music. My artefact is very much a  “love letter” to the course, the tutors and especially the students,  using images, music and words that are I hope would be evocative of that 5 week online experience. The artefact is called “The Edunauts: Educational Explorers for the Digital Age“. I think for most of us, we felt that we had experienced something very special, very unique and very memorable that will remain with us for a very long time indeed.

My heart-felt thanks and appreciation goes to those early “edunauts” (in no particular order): Dr Sian Bayne, Dr Hamish MacleodJeremy Knox, Dr Jen Ross and Dr Christine Sinclair and to the next generation of “edunauts”: the class of 2013. I salute you all!


Balch, T. (2013). “MOOC Student Demographics”. The Augmented Trader, 27.1.2013. Available at: [Accessed 26.2.2013].

Bayne, S. (2013a). “Some more interesting things for EDC MOOCers”. Teaching ‘E-learning and Digital Cultures’ Blog, 7.2.2013. Available at: [Accessed 26.2.2013].

Bayne, S. (2013b). “University space: MOOCS, distance education and the sentimental campus”. Disrupting Higher Education Symposium, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, 19.2.2013. Available at: [Accessed 25.2.2013].

Blake, N. (2002). “Hubert Dreyfus on Distance Education: relays of educational embodiment”. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 34(4), pp. 379-385. Available at: [Accessed 26.2.2013].

Coughlan, S. (2011). “Open University’s record iTunes U downloads”. BBC News, 3.10.2011. Available at: [Accessed 26.2.2013].

Dreyfus, H.L. (2001). On the Internet. London: Routledge.

Kolowich, S. (2012b). “Who Takes MOOCs?”. Inside Higher Ed, 5.6.2012. Available at: [Accessed 26.2.2013].

Kolowich, S. (2012b). “The MOOC Survivors”. Inside Higher Ed, 12.9.2012. Available at: [Accessed 26.2.2013].

Rheingold, H. et al. (2012). The Peeragogy Handbook. Available at: [Accessed 26.2.2013].

Ross, J. (2008). “Paper about teaching online: jesters, tricksters and fools”. jenrossity, 25.9.2008. Available at: [Accessed 26.2.2013].

Ross, J. (2013). ““where are the teachers”? “where are the videos”?”. Teaching ‘E-learning and Digital Cultures’ Blog, 29.1.2013. Available at: [Accessed 26.2.2013].

Sinclair, C. (2013). “Who or what is a teacher – on #edcmooc?”. Teaching ‘E-learning and Digital Cultures’ Blog, 15.2.2013. Available at: [Accessed 26.2.2013].

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