Participant association and emergent curriculum in a MOOC: can the community be the curriculum?


Prueba 001 by Magdalena Lagaleriade CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Our third and final paper from research in the context of the Rhizo14 MOOC has been published in the open access journal of the Association for Learning Technology:

Bell, F., Mackness, J., & Funes (2016) Participant association and emergent curriculum in a MOOC: can the community be the curriculum? Research in Learning Technology, vol. 24 .

As the title suggests, we explored ‘community is the curriculum’ in a MOOC: how community formed and was perceived; how curriculum emerged; and how both of these happened in the context of an absence of explicit community and learning goals.  We also looked at the impact of the choice of Social Networking Sites (SNS) on community formation and on the curriculum.  SNS are being used in and around education and our research can contribute to inquiry into how they can be used, or not.

Our previous two papers were both published in Open Access journals:

Mackness, J. & Bell, F. (2015). Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade. Open Praxis. 7(1), p. 25-38
Mackness, J., Bell, F. & Funes, M. (2016). The Rhizome: a problematic metaphor for teaching and learning in a MOOC. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. 32(1), p.78-91 .

I can’t speak for Jenny or Mariana but I know I am experiencing a mixture of pride, in the body of work that we have produced, and relief, that I can take forward the ideas explored in the 3 papers and surrounding interactions on blogs and other social media into broader contexts than a single MOOC. I really hope that practitioners and researchers can benefit from this work, and I would be delighted by their constructive engagement with us, here or in other spaces. Many of us are learning and researching in online spaces. We can work together to find out how to organise our learning better, and choose and use SNS. And all of this is dynamic as we and SNS change.

So I’d love to hear your ideas, objections, reflections that can help us all engage with our research and that of others in this important area of open learning.  What I have learned from this work is that we can and must do that in our own ways, and that kindness is important.

Netlytic and Rhizo14 Twitter hash tag visualisation

Disclaimer: This is very hacky and proper techy people could probably do it better so their constructive comments would be most welcome but I am a bricoleur and persistent so make of what follows as you will:)

During Rhizo14 someone (Martin Hawksey? Dave Cormier?) created an archive of tweets from the rhizo14 Twitter hashtag. You can see the full glory of the visualisations at rhizo14 Tags Explorer (warning takes a while to load). You can make your own archive (prospectively rather than retrospectively) and visualisations of any hash tag using the magic of Martin Hawksey’s TAGS Explorer. This is a truly wonderful use of Google apps and it produces data that can also be reused.

In October 2014, I found Netlytic, ” a cloud-based text and social networks analyzer that can automatically summarize large volumes of text and discover social networks from online conversations on social media sites such as Twitter, Youtube, blogs, online forums and chats”. When I investigated, it had some really interesting interactive tools that can help you explore (some of) what’s happening in networks. It has taken me a long time to feel confident to present some of the netyltics visualisations.

If your hash tag is just starting, I think it would be a good idea to archive it in TAGs Explorer AND netlytic (and anything else you find). The message is – archive in flexible spaces – not just one!

OK – I was starting from the position of having access to a historic TAGs Explorer archive and wanting to use netlytics functionality. If you want to do a similar conversion, you might find this template useful.

Health warning: I noticed that there were gaps in the data but these were few and should not affect the broad brush analysis. The archive runs from 10 Jan – Sept 22 2014

Here are some examples of the visualisations that netlytics offered.

Tweets over time
Tweets over time

This is interactive on the web site.

Top Ten Tweeters
Top Ten Tweeters


Top 10 Mentions
Top 10 Mentions


If anyone has concerns about their names appearing here, please contact me at frabell AT gmail DOT com.