MOOCs, Rhizomes & Networks


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During the past year, the phenomenon of Massive Open Online Courses – or MOOCs – has been a trend du jour within academia. Framed by co-founder George Siemens as “the Internet happening to education,” MOOCs offer a lens through which to explore how escalating complexity and information abundance impact 21st century higher ed.

Alternately hailed and derided as a disruptive revolution in higher education, MOOCs make visible the fault lines emerging in contemporary academia. Because not only are networked practices encroaching on and expanding the boundaries of conventional educational institutions: so is neoliberalism.

In this keynote for #WILU2013, Dave Cormier and Bonnie Stewart trace a narrative path through the various ways MOOCs challenge institutional education models, focusing particularly on the digital, networked practices that MOOCs were originally intended to embody. They outline rhizomatic and networked models of learning, and the conceptual structures that underpin education as a massive, open, and online enterprise.

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  • I want to tell you a story. It’s a story we’re all already in. It’s a story of change. Changes in expectations, in the role higher education plays in society, in the role money plays in higher education.
  • A story of change in institutions. Bricks & mortar will likely stay, many of our careers will remain tied to these organizations of human potential. But we become institutionalized. the defined boundaries, rigid structures, clear hierarchical roles: these are no longer sufficient for coping with the complexity.
  • Top leftish cluster is institutional model….bottom rightish cluster is the present. Neoliberalism – idea of education as market, that nimble, efflicient, entrepreneurial approaches Not necessarily progression. These shifts are only loosely tied.
  • Also a story of literacies. Academia may be institutional but its practices are built on networks. Conferences are connections, and academic publishing is making connections visible and we are already all literate in these skills. But you will notice…this is not tidy.
  • Market sense and digital sense and both use of institutional structures while going beyond institutional structures
  • Also fluid
  • Networked society also cannot relegate the economic to institutional structures, so it becomes more visible. In the networked collapse of personal and professional, there is also a collapse of the tidy boundaries & etiquettes around money.
  • Probe, sense respond. In complexity, and information abundance, connections are being made that haven’t been made before and we are navigating environments we haven’t before. Institutions have dealt primarily with the two right hand domains.
  • We started in the summer of 2005 when there was lots of uncertaintyCommunity as curriculum
  • A very messy kind of network
  • MOOCs, Rhizomes & Networks

    1. 1. MOOCs, Rhizomes & Networks: 

Information Literacies in a Time of Complexity Abundance@davecormier @bonstewartUniversity of Prince Edward Island
WILU 2013
    2. 2. Untangling 4 Threads•  Information abundance = context •  Networks Rhizomes = structure •  MOOCs = possibilities •  A challenge: Where do we go from here?
    3. 3. The system of higher ed isin shift
    4. 4. 

What comes next?  
    5. 5. Multiple axes of changeknowledge scarcity knowledge abundance open public funding neoliberalism closed
    6. 6. h#p://  
    7. 7. Part 1 – A context Oral to catechetical to textbook to 
    8. 8.
    9. 9. Part 2a – Identities The structure of networks
    10. 10.  Structures beyond institutional structures
    11. 11. Networked Identities = 
Multiple, Public, Participatory
    12. 12. Always Connected h#p://  
    13. 13. Networks expandparticipation
    14. 14. My Networked Connectionsgreater access, diversity, visibility… also increased noise time.
    15. 15. 
Belonging is alwayspartial,
always multiple
    16. 16. Always hybrid
    17. 17. h#p://  
    18. 18. h#p://  Hard to hear
    19. 19. Signal/Noise Literaciesh#p://  
    20. 20. Different 
legitimacy practices  Institutional  •  product-focused •  mastery •  hierarchical ties •  plagiarism •  authority in role •  audience = teacher Networked •  process-focused •  participation •  peer-to-peer ties •  crowdsourcing •  authority in reputation •  audience = world
    21. 21. Part 2b – RhizomesWays of navigating networks
    22. 22. ED 366
    23. 23. What do theyneed to know?  
    24. 24. How do I know?  
    25. 25. I don’t  
    26. 26. Rhizomes:•  are aggressive, chaotic and resilient. •  are difficult to contain •  follow their own paths •  are multiple
    27. 27. The rhizomaticapproach is about1.  Preparing for uncertainty 2.  Learning when there is no answer 3.  Dealing with complexity 4.  Being responsible to your own learning 5.  Drawing your own map
    28. 28. Part 3a – A convergence An example on the open web
    29. 29. h#p://  
    30. 30. What’s a MOOC?
    31. 31. “MOOCs are the internethappening to education.” ! ! ! ! ! !- George Siemens, 2012!
    32. 32. Massive
    33. 33. Openh#p://  
    34. 34. Online
    35. 35. Course
    36. 36. Part 3b – Implications What this means for higher education
    37. 37. MOOCs = Many Thingsh#p://  
    38. 38. h#p://  
    39. 39. Education = the finalfrontier      IBIS  Capital:  Global  e-­‐Learning  Investment  Review,  2013    
    40. 40. Education = onlineGSV  Advisors,  2012  
    41. 41. “Education is Broken”  networks neoliberalism Institutionaleducation
    42. 42. Major MOOCs merge networked critique of institutional educationwith neoliberal shock doctrine: “here’s a disaster, here’s a solution.” But MOOCs don’t HAVE to be like that.  

    43. 43. Approaches to MOOCsNeoliberal= AboutMarket Solutions
  Networked= About Connections
    44. 44. Some MOOCs… Harness contribute toknowledge abundance Are participatory Are distributed Generate knowledge connections that extendbeyond course Share the processes ofknowledge work, not just theproducts h#p://  
    45. 45. Part 4 – Going forward What should I do now?
    46. 46. h#p://  
    47. 47. Move online together
    48. 48. @bonstewart @davecormier Participate or Perish.