Open Education Conference 2013 Presentation

Difficulties Evaluating cMOOCs: Navigating Autonomy and Participation


Given Nov. 8, 2013, at the Open Education Conference 2013 at Park City, Utah.

Here is the video recording. I had only 25 minutes to present, and I was late starting because I was messing with my computer, trying to get it to show me “presenter mode” while it showed the slides on the screen so I could see my notes. Then I tried to see my notes on my phone. Then I gave up on my notes and just winged it! (I was using Keynote rather than PowerPoint, and I’ve never tried to use presenter mode before…the problem was that I couldn’t print out my notes because the printer in the “business centre” of the hotel was out of order!)

Here are the slides, which are licensed CC-BY so you can use any part of them if you want. Again, these were in Apple Keynote, and when I exported to PowerPoint some of the colours, fonts and alignments got messed up a bit.


When I get a free half a day (probably in December) I’ll write up a post in which I explain my argument in this presentation, including the slides at the end I didn’t get to!

Update Feb. 2015: Well, obviously I never wrote this up. Which is too bad, because now it’s been quite awhile and it would take me a long time to try to do so. I do plan to return to this research at some point (perhaps in the Summer of 2015), and see what else has been published in the meantime. And who knows what kind of open online course models there will be by then?!




Things either cited on the slides or quoted from in the presentation (at least, the original version as I wrote it, not the shortened one given in the video!)


Ahn, J., Weng, C., & Butler, B. S. (2013). The Dynamics of Open, Peer-to-Peer Learning: What Factors Influence Participation in the P2P University? (pp. 3098–3107). IEEE. doi: 10.1109/HICSS.2013.515


Cormier, D. (2010a). Knowledge in a MOOC – YouTube. Retrieved from


Cormier, D., & Siemens, G. (2010b). Through the Open Door: Open Courses as Research, Learning, and Engagement. Educause Review, 45(4), 30–39. Retrieved from


Downes, S. (2007, February 3). What Connectivism Is. Half an Hour. Retrieved from


Downes, S. (2009, February 24). Connectivist Dynamics in Communities. Half an Hour. Retrieved from


Downes, S. (2013a). Supporting a Distributed Online Course ~ Stephen’s Web. Presented at the Information Technology Based Higher Education and Training ITHET 2013, Antalya, Turkey. Retrieved from


Downes, S. (2013b). The Quality of Massive Open Online Courses. MOOC Quality Project. Retrieved from  A longer version of this post can be found here:


Fournier, H., Kop, R., & Sitlia, H. (2011). The Value of Learning Analytics to Networked Learning on a Personal Learning Environment. Presented at the 1st International Conference Learning Analytics and Knowledge, Banff, Alberta. Retrieved from


Kop, R. (2011). The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a massive open online course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 19–38. Retrieved from


Kop, R., Fournier, H., & Mak, J. S. F. (2011). A pedagogy of abundance or a pedagogy to support human beings? Participant support on massive open online courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(7), 74–93. Retrieved from


Lane, L. M. (2013). An Open, Online Class to Prepare Faculty to Teach Online. Journal of Educators Online10(1), n1. Retrieved from


Mackness, J., Mak, S., & Williams, R. (2010). The ideals and reality of participating in a MOOC. In Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010 (pp. 266–275). University of Lancaster. Retrieved from


McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G., & Cormier, D. (2010). The MOOC model for digital practice. SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis Grant on the Digital Economy. Retrieved from


Milligan, C., Littlejohn, A., & Margaryan, A. (2013). Patterns of Engagement in Connectivist MOOCs. Journal of Online Teaching and Learning, 9(2). Retrieved from


Siemens, G. (2006, November 12). Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime for the Self-Amused? elearnspace. Retrieved from


Siemens, G. (2008, August 6). What is the unique idea in Connectivism? « Connectivism. Connectivism. Retrieved from


Siemens, G. (2012, June 3). What is the theory that underpins our moocs? elearnspace. Retrieved from


Waite, M., Mackness, J., Roberts, G., & Lovegrove, E. (2013). Liminal Participants and Skilled Orienteers: Learner Participation in a MOOC for New Lecturers. Journal of Online Teaching and Learning, 9(2). Retrieved from


Williams, R., Karousou, R., & Mackness, J. (2011). Emergent learning and learning ecologies in Web 2.0. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 39–59. Retrieved from


Williams, R. T., Mackness, J., & Gumtau, S. (2012). Footprints of emergence. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(4), 49–90. Retrieved from


    1. Hi Jenny:

      Unfortunately, I didn’t get to all my slides, and the footprints of emergence material was at the end! I had just 25 minutes, and I started a bit late in part due to technical difficulties (couldn’t print out my notes at the hotel b/c printer broken, couldn’t get the computer to show my notes while it showed the slides on the screen, etc.). Which also meant there was no time for questions and comments at the end! But I did talk to a couple of people afterwards, one of whom suggested learner portfolios might be a way to show evidence of what people have done in a cMOOC and help them see for themselves what they have gotten out of it. Another person suggested that we should look at cMOOCs as complex systems, and that complexity theory might be an avenue to pursue to help with this question because it’s not going to be one easily answered by traditional methods of assessment. I recall reading an article on cMOOCs that discusses complexity theory, but I didn’t quite understand that aspect of it! (deWaard, I., Abajian, S., Gallagher, M. S., Hogue, R., Keskin, N., Koutropoulos, A., & Rodriguez, O. C. (2011). Using mLearning and MOOCs to understand chaos, emergence, and complexity in education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(7), 94–115) That person also suggested that work in interactional linguistics might be useful.

      I’m going to write up a post in which I explain my main arguments in the presentation, including that which I didn’t get to in the actual presentation itself! And then I’m going to write this up eventually and submit it somewhere for publication. But that won’t be until next summer–a hectic teaching and service schedule mean I don’t have time to revisit the issue until then!

      And I realized after I gave the presentation that I somehow missed looking at your and Carmen Tschofen’s article on “Connectivism and Dimensions of Individual Experience” (The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 124-143). I have it, but didn’t read it again before preparing the presentation for some unknown reason. So I’ll be including that one when I revisit this issue!

  1. You go girl!

    Cool thing to do, and to see (still loading the vid, and watching quietly here as wife and sone are sleeping soundly).

    Very cool to see. I came across some interesting stuff about collaboration and cognitive load recently – what the cognitive load issues ibn collaboratoion might be, and when collaboration might be beneficial, and when not in terms of cognitive load.

    It’s an interesting window on Connectivist ideas fromn the ed psych perspective. I can post up the citations – 2 – and send on the .pdfs if it’s of interest.

    1. Hi Keith:

      Thanks! Yes, it’s definitely of interest. Will be awhile before I can get back to this project…as in, when classes end next April. But will be happy to have the resources then.

  2. Hi Christina – it has taken me a while to get to this, but I think it’s a great presentation. So many things to think about. I particularly like your point about the fact that you can’t capture the benefit of cMOOCs by asking people if they have met their goals. So true – and I have experienced being interviewed about my MOOC learning goals and feeling at a loss!

    I also agree completely that the benefits might take a long time to realise and that they might be principally in the connections you make – definitely my experience – although I have recently completed a MOOC in which I think my connections have been only to the subject matter (and even that in a way which I am sure would not have been intentional by the MOOC designer).

    You did at one point mention that you didn’t think there had been any research that looked at blogs in relation to MOOCs – but I’m sure I have seen something that did just that, in a recent paper – but at this moment in time, I can’t remember where – Sorry. I’ll try and recall and get back to you.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your final write up. I really enjoyed your presentation – and as an aside – I’m sorry you had some presentation difficulties and I sympathise and empathise. I have had a similar experience!

    1. Hi Jenny:

      Thank you! I won’t get to the writeup until early December, as I’m just swamped with end of term things at the moment. But I definitely need to get it written up as soon as possible, while it’s all still fresh in my memory. If you can find that paper you mentioned that looked at blogs, that would be great!

      Yeah, so many things went wrong at once: the printer in the business centre not working, then not being able to get to my notes on a friend’s iPad because I had to look up my password for Google docs on my phone and that was taking too long (I have all my passwords saved through a particular provider), and then I couldn’t get the presenter view to show on my computer while the slides themselves showed on the screen (I still don’t know how to do that!)…and, of course, I arrived just a couple of minutes before the presentation needed to start, which was my fault. I’ve never done a 25 minute presentation before, and, well, I still didn’t! I needed just 5 more minutes and I would have been good!

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