Frances Bell

home at last – for all the mes


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.

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francesbell • July 6, 2016

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  1. Len July 6, 2016 - 1:06 pm Reply

    Frances and co. thanks for the body of work you have taken time to do re: #rhizo14. Lots of information and discussion points shared and because they at times appear to surprise and maybe even contradict the experiences of some in the course, I think the discourse is very useful.

    In particular and about this paper I wasn’t aware that you were doing participants observation and recording of interactions in the #rhizo14 Facebook Group but this is probably entirely me not paying attention at the time. I raised the question in another group and someone noted that I might have missed it.
    Observing engagements in Facebook Groups is something I’ve been interested in methodologically ever since I started using them 6 years ago or so with my CS classes. And so I wonder if wonder if you can share how you went about your participants observation ‘process’ some more as it may influence others like myself who research Facebook Groups. Also would you share a thought or two about the ethical side of this and how to go about it?

    Thanks once again.

    • francesbell July 6, 2016 - 1:50 pm Reply

      Thanks Len. Your question has reminded me that though I have moved my blog, I haven’t moved the Rhizo Research page to this new domain of my own so I will think about how to do that. Here’s what we shared with the Rhizo14 spaces after we had consulted with them about our handling of data I don’t know if you remember but we had an open consultation process on a Google doc, publicised on Rhizo14 channels, and this document was the outcome, taking participant comments into account. The process is still there in Facebook/Twitter archives if you can find it 🙂 What we hadn’t anticipated was the improved access to the Facebook archive offered by the Netvizz / Gephi combination. So you see, we didn’t record the Facebook interactions (that’s what Facebook do so they can sell advertising and other services), we just got better access to the permalinks. I do remember sharing what I had learned about permalinks during Rhizo14; and trying to find out how Netvizz worked but didn’t manage to get to grips with Netvizz until after Rhizo14 was finished. In the mean time, Facebook’s privacy policies for APIs had changed. What I could have downloaded in 2014 would have conflicted with our data use policy, so perhaps it all worked out for the best, as what we did is not in conflict with what we promised.
      Regarding ethics, we wrote about this in all three papers, and I wrote about it blog posts . Hope that helps.

  2. Len July 6, 2016 - 1:54 pm Reply

    Thanks Frances. Sorry I had to put you thru that just to remind me. Much appreciated. I will read the links again later.
    It’s interesting how the changing nature of open spaces can affect data collection and research processes. In this case not so much thankfully.

  3. Jenny Connected

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