The e-Learning Ecologies MOOC

Having promised myself that I would not do it whilst I am currently embarking on the EdD (Doctorate in Education), I have signed up to do another MOOC course through Coursera. The course, in question, is called “e-Learning Ecologies” and is being run by the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The course is being taught by Dr William Cope and Dr Mary Kalantzis (both Australians working in an American university) from 19 January to 15 March 2015 (around 8 weeks).

Screenshot: e-Learning Ecologies module in Coursera
Screenshot: e-Learning Ecologies module in Coursera

I find myself with a bit of spare time between now and the final taught module on the EdD, which is scheduled for March 2015. Having said that, I am spending the time wisely reading lots of books and articles on professional learning, higher education and various sociomaterialist concepts and theories. The “e-Learning Ecologies” MOOC, I felt, would offer me with a nice little distraction as well as providing me with some ideas and approaches that I could use in my role of a learning technologist. According to the course blurb:

This course introduces innovative approaches to learning and teaching, with a focus on the use of e-learning and social web technologies.

Althought not essential or dependent upon participants completing the course, I suspect some elements of the course has been influenced by the course tutors’ book (Kalantzis & Cope, 2012). The course introduces the notion of the “7 affordances of e-learning ecologies”, which consist of:

  1. Ubiquitous Learning
  2. Active Knowledge Making
  3. Multimodal Meaning
  4. Recursive Feedback
  5. Collaborative Intelligence
  6. Metacognition
  7. Differentiated Learning

As Dr Cope notes, there is nothing particularly innovative with these 7 affordances, indeed some are quite old concepts. What is, of interest, is the ease in which current and emergent educational technologies are able to incorporate those affordances to open up educational opportunities and encounters that are described as “New Learning”. The course team suggest that:

These affordances, if recognized and harnessed, will prepare learners for success in a world that is increasingly dominated by digital information flows and tools for communication in the workplace, public spaces, and personal life. This course offers a wide variety of examples of learning technologies and technology implementations that, to varying degrees, demonstrate these affordances in action.

The MOOC predominately makes use of in-house videos (the course has its own YouTube Playlist), articles (the course makes use of a website that complements the “New Learning” book) and discussion boards. Intriguingly, the course content also resides in a “social knowledge platform” called “Scholar“, which has been devised by Common Ground Publishing. So, the student can participant in either one or both of the platforms (though if you want to gain a certificate, your contributions have to be submitted in the Coursera platform only to qualify). It seems the course team appear to be “fans” of the “Scholar” platform and are conducting research into its use and viability as an education-led learning system.

This is my first non-UK course (virtual or otherwise), so I am excited to see how this is delivered and their approach to teaching the subject matter. What has caught my attention is that the course “supports 3 levels of participation”.  These being:

  1. (O)verview: Spending roughly 1-3 hours / week watching some videos, reading some articles and participating in the forums.
  2. (I)ntermediate: Spending roughly 3-8 hours / week watching some videos, reading some articles, participating in the forums, and posting an original contribution.
  3. (A)dvanced: Spending roughly 8-10 hours / week watching all of the videos, reading all of the articles, participating in the forums, posting an original contribution, and creating a peer-reviewed case study (You would have to do the “Advanced” level to qualify for the verified certificate).

I am aiming to do the Intermediate level where I will be posting my “original” contribution to the Coursera and Scholar platforms as well as my blog, so that you can see what I am up to.


Kalantzis, M. & Cope, B. (2012). New Learning: Elements of a Science of Education. 2nd Edition. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.