Connection not Content

A Blog for MOOCs and Other Animals

#Introphil Mooc – Third Week Impressions

with 6 comments


Canosa cinque stelle – Canosa

This week I tried really hard to connect with other participants through the forum – but without much success. This is unsettling – not like the cMOOCs. Far better to slink away with the notes and downloaded videos, they’re really good, and abandon the connected learning thing.

If that’s my emotional reaction then what about someone with less of an educational background, or whose English is limited, having to wrestle with such a mammoth and clunky online forum? All 90,000 people said to have enrolled for this MOOC may not be using the forum but hundreds certainly are! Unless a post catches the eye in the first few hours of its birth it dies an early death; a fate suffered by many many posts. I doubt if the authors ever return again after a couple of tries. Setting aside fundamental objections to stuffing hundreds of participants into a closed and centralised forum, it’s not so very difficult to come up with suggestions on how to improve navigation and other features of the forum as it stands – and some participants already have. I would head the list with a basic forum FAQ so that for starters, participants could learn how to find their own posts!

Fortunately, it’s in the power of MOOCs to triumph over adversity and the Massive in MOOC is ensuring that impressively large numbers of participants are engaging in the forum and probably learning something. As always for MOOCs, exactly what’s being learned can be difficult to pinpoint but there’s certainly vigorous discussion. Some participants are expert in one field or another and their contributions can be illuminating – or even intimidating if they become impatient with the non-experts. The trouble with philosophy is that no topic is off-topic so there’s endless debate on just about everything under the sun (or beyond it!) and not all is particularly philosophical. On the other hand there are excellent contributions by individuals who are labelled, ‘Instructors’ and others by ‘Students’ focusing more on the philosophical angle – the questions behind questions rather than the questions themselves. I’m coming to think that’s what philosophy is, or should be about.

Written by Gordon Lockhart

February 18, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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6 Responses

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  1. Agreed that it is very frustrating not to be able to find one’s own posts! I can never remember which of the jillion threads/subthreads I posted to. Am blown away by the knowledge and loquaciousness of others. I did take philosophy many years ago but remember none of it now. It’s interesting that the wordy folks are taking over the forums much the same way that they did listservs back in the day. I don’t see the flame wars thougn–did something change?

    I like Duncan’s book. Thanks for your post.


    Susan Elgie

    February 21, 2013 at 3:50 am

  2. The key to finding your own posts is the ‘Subscribe’ button for a particular ‘room’, then select your post but even then it may be necessary to click on ‘Newest First’ and even then, use the ‘search in page’ facility in your own browser to find your name!
    There certainly are some very wordy folks and difficult to filter out those who really have something to say. I think the fundamental problem here is the centralised nature of one forum – far better in the original cMOOCs with discussion distributed among participant blogs or even Twitter plus some sort of aggregation by a central hub. (I’m trying to aggregate blog commenting for introphil but there’s very little activity so far.) As for flame wars, hopefully self-declared learners are more inclined to civilsed argument – there’s certainly a lot of the other kind elsewhere!
    Interesting about the book – I was a little put off by it being pushed in an open course.

    Thanks for your comments Susan.

    Gordon Lockhart


    February 21, 2013 at 8:18 am

  3. The Economist has a good way of visually tracking trending topics – see|newe|2-18-2013|5048482|35410390| for example. Scoll down and look for the bubbles on the right. Their size and relationship captures what is kicking off.

    John Mackness

    February 21, 2013 at 11:22 am

    • Thanks John – that’s very nifty! I bet it could be adapted for MOOCs.


      February 21, 2013 at 11:47 am

  4. I am trying to form the habit of including my name or twitter handle in posts but forget more often than not. Latest + page search works well if you don’t delay too long. “Most popular” is the more used way to check for interesting posts but there is still that element of chance… a great post and potential connection could miss that early catch, get overlooked. A participant in Venture Lab’s DNLE suggested adding a “random” button and they did. No guarantee (and it can hard to refind if you don’t carry away a reference marker) but it does up the odd and gives the overlooked another chance in the forum crap shoot.

    Perhaps in time practices and habits to promote easier search (users and developers) will emerge. Beside iupvoting, the habit of mentioning, recommending threads and posts by name and a much of a link as possible…direct quotes to include a short string should work too.

    I try to put in some forum time too, not as much as I should ~ not more than one a day either. Running into an overbearing participant can be off-putting too. Today I came across George Siemen’s quote about participation being how we pay for free moocs. So now I am reminded…again.

    As reflection, that is happening too, even some in notes here and there, but not taking post shape lately. What really interests me is how much overlap I am finding with both Digital Culture and our post SF course book group, where we are reading Philip K Dick’s, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Metaphysics, post-human, transhuman, what is human, what is mind, ethics, empathy… all over the place, not limited to any one group.. Confusing too trying to keep them straight…


    February 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    • Yes, good thinking re twitter handle Vanessa – I’ll try to remember that too. I think I’ve now got to grips with the pesky forum. I’m trying hard to be philosophical about it – perhaps it’s a deliberate test! I’m sure things will improve though why it’s taking so long in view of the dollars heaping into Coursera is a good question. There does seem some resentment about a number of issues including overbearing participants so I posted something on MOOCs in general. I do have some admiration for the facilitators who I think are doing a good job on the whole. Interesting about mixed up MOOCs etc – this is going to happen more and more I think as individuals dip in and out of simultaneously running MOOCs, sometimes as lurkers, sometimes completely immersed, sometimes neither – MOOCs are going to have to adjust to this.

      Hah! Now from introphil ‘We’re Having Server Trouble’ but I’m still getting email notifications of postings so maybe only UK is affected. Gordon


      February 22, 2013 at 4:59 pm

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