creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by roberthuffstutter

With travel and moving to my new perch for a few months, in the last few weeks, my awareness of what’s going on in Connected Courses has been mainly the vibe I get from scans of the #ccourses twitter stream and reading a few posts.

Beyond counting tweets (~6000) and syndicated posts (~1700) it’s mostly hunch to get a sense of what’s going on. I prefer what I sense over what data tells me. What you don’t see easily are inter blog commenting, the direct messaging/emails between people, the conversations they have elsewhere. You cannot even come close to getting your arms around it all.

My hunch is that a good number folks are having that heady rush of a first connective experience, the kind that people who had their “first” in places like ETMOOC, EDCMOOC, CLMOOC, [fill in name of your favorite MOOC], e.g. what I remember from my first round of ds106 in 2011. I believe that after that, your experience is different the next round, not lesser, but that first OMG I AM CONNECTING WITH SO MANY COOL COLLEAGUES AROUND THE WORLD is, IMHO, un-repeatable. It’s a made adrenaline rush.

This is a good thing. And is also a goal of Connected Courses. But it’s also the topic of Connected Courses. And it’s worth some consideration of how you create that connective rush experience when it’s not the topic of the course.

I cannot in any way judge the experience of others, though I do think it’s time to start weaving the thread of what people came here for- how to I integrate all the topics covered in a connected course I might create?

And so I offer my own opinion which sounds a bit critical, but from where I site the “DO” part of Connected Courses has not been fronted as much as I might have designed. The original plans built in the idea of “makes” (perhaps influenced by CLMOOC).

But when I look at the details for sections of Connected Courses, the Makes are buried way down at the end, past the hangouts, past lists of readings, past lists of videos. If I was just scanning, I would see them as an afterthought. I do not see blog posts or comments as “makes”, to me they are part of the regular things to do.

While quite a few people have been blogging voraciously I am curious about maybe running some database queries to generate some frequency distribution of blog activity. I do not have a sense of how pervasive the blogging is across the large numbers of people who signed up. I bet we still have a lot of reluctant bloggers, of people who see it as really just as something to do if there is spare time.

To me, blogging is essential as a reflective practice in a connected course. I cannot see doing one where it was not only encouraged, but expected.

But that’s me.

Connected Courses has offered great discussions, and shared resources, but in my eyes, not nearly enough Doing. As a small example (and here again it sound critical) but it really jumped out at me. In Unit 4 on Gender, Equity Access, there was a great presentation of the FemTechNet’s Wikistorming activities- there was a “framing video” talking about Wikistormingbut why were we not DOING Wikistorming? Or some of the other fantastic activities that go on in FemTechNet?

To me, we missed a lot of opportunities to share an understanding of gender, equity, and access through experiencing them, from doing things, going beyond talking about things.

More Do, please.

I cannot help it. I was ruined by ds106. I sense people look at it and see the craziness in twitter, giffing, running a radio station making propaganda posters that get under Stephen Downes’s skim — and just chalk it up as “that’s the fun course”. Well it is fun, but the other thing is its more do, than talking about doing. And it calls on people to reflect on their work. And share it voraciously.

This bubbled up to me after watching the replay of the session Alec Corous ran for Unit 5 Colearning on The Case of #ETMOOC

First of all, I love that Alec called on #ETMOOC and #ccourses participants to be in the hangout. Too many of the ones before were more like panels of experts. Here’s a tip- have your participants co-lead the live sessions.

But what came out early in the discussion from people who were part of Alec’s MOOC in 2013 ( was the importance of the very first shared activity. A Do. The lip-dub project was crowdsourced among participants for the idea, production and creation. Read Alec’s follow-up on the making of the lip-dub project.

And next, read Rhonda Jessen’s reflection on this a year later. Let me repeat, the experience was that strong, it is having people thinking on it way after the course. Most people cease thinking about their course after the curtains are drawn. For many people, like ones in ETMOOC, it has not ended.

It’s what has become what looks like a silly rally cry in ds106 – “it’s #4life” – is more than a slogan.

The people in the hangout did highlight what it meant to set the climate for ETMOOC by starting with this activity, and how a sense of “play” made the course more inviting.

The course started with a DO.

One where many people participated.

I think that is even more important- this was a shared experience. The connective experience of blogging, tweeting, annotating diigo is mostly at the individual level. But when people work together to DO and create something, they bond in an important way. A memorable way. Co-Learning is the current Connected Courses topic, but how about getting there through Co-Making? Co-Doing?

And another thing that is clear in listening to #ETMOOCers is that they are still engaged with it. People blog posts still show up there — this was maybe the second blog hub I built after ds106 and it is still going. Does your Coursera course carry on after they turn the lights out?

And I expect that the folks running Connected Courses are eager to keep the community going after the scheduled sessions play out- this is my suggestion.

Do not use the phrase “when the course is over” or “after the course ends”. Because when the organizers of the course signal its end, the people in it see it so.

Do not suggest you are turning the lights out.

There have been a long list of positives in Connected Courses; my favorites are the ones the planners did not intend. Like the Daily Connector, the diigo annotators, a Research Working Group. I have enjoyed making closer connections via blogs with Terry Elliot, Maha Bali, the regular creative explosion of Kevin Hodgson and the guy who is in a creative dimension of his own, Simon Ensor.

I see a lot of “doing” in these spaces.

And you can never have too much “DO”…

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by psyberartist

The post "It’s All About the Do" was originally squeezed out of the bottom of an old rusted tube of toothpaste at CogDogBlog ( on November 12, 2014.


  • Kevin Hodgson

    I am reminded of the great line by Bluto in Animal House … “… nothing is over until we decide it is…”

  • As the core facilitators worked during our week together at Irvine this summer, the need for “makes” in each unit was discussed, intensely. I agree that the emphasis on these makes has not always been foregrounded well as the course has gone on. Definitely an area for improvement.

    That said, I also believe that focused study is a “make.” Reading, listening, and thinking can be and should be active and not just passive consumption activities. I’ve been very interested, and occasionally a little dismayed, to find that dichotomies between studying and making appear again and again in these conversations. I’ll say it once more: studying and making are two kinds of making. And I also believe that “making” can become superficial, grazing, a parade of nice novelties and fun activities, just as “studying” can become mindless, an exercise in cramming, compliance, and giving the teacher what the teacher wants. But neither has to be that, and both are essential. Both are making.

    Nothing wrong with lists of readings or videos. Yes, what we’ll make out of those resources needs to be much more prominent and urgent. And there is room for some activities in which everyone participates. I actually feel that some common activities are not only good but necessary–and blogging is one of those, though I’m the first to admit that I’ve lagged behind in that category, for lots of reasons, none of them good ones.

    There are fundamental questions here that are not answered simply by any single idea or experience, whether ds106 or CHEM 301 (I made that last one up).

  • Hmm…Every once in awhile I ask myself, “So what’s going on with this course?” I even think about asking Howard, whom I know a bit, “What do you guys think about things so far?” Is anyone on top of this thing? What would that mean, “be on top of”?

    How many people have “signed up” in some way? 238 have linked their blogs, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some folks have been hanging around w/out blog-linking and I pretty much assume that blog-linkers have wildly different levels & kinds of participation. 31 have listed themselves in the directory. A much smaller number.

    How many folks are connected with an institution through which they could offer a course or courses (I am not)? How many people are new to the internet? I’m not, I’ve been around a long time. But I’m pretty much new to online teaching. Oh sure, some years ago I did teach an online course through the New School; that was even before the web. That hardly counts and I’m not sure how much, if any, of that I could haul out of my hard-drive that was a least four computers ago. Anyhow, how many people have been online for awhile, but havn’t taught online?

    The course seemed to presuppose little or no online experience, which is OK. But still, how many people showed up with a lot of online experience? What kind of online experience?

    How many of the people here teach in higher ed? What kind of institution? Community college, 4-year college, university? How many have active research careers, or hope to? I know there are some grad students here. And some librarians too, some folks at the high school level rather than higher ed – at least I think there are, somehow I’ve gotten that impression.

    I feel a little guilty that I’ve not done all the reading and all the makes, but only a little. Like everyone else, I’m busy and have to pick and choose and some of this doesn’t seem terribly relevant to me as I’m already familiar with a lot of these issues, if not these particular discussions. As for the “makes”, in the first two weeks or so I made two contributions to something or somethings where were going to be complied, but never heard anything about what happened. Maybe there’s a notice or something buried in that RSS feed that I only look at occasionally (because I’ve never gotten in the habit of using RSS feeds, for whatever reason).

    Now, as I blog daily, I have written a bunch of posts in connection with this course, and plan to do a couple more. Some people have read and commetted too, which is always nice. And I’ve made a comment or three here and there.

    But what to do next?

    I know what interests me, I’ve got some idea of what I’m looking for, and at least some of it is here. When the time comes that I want to set up my own shop I’ve got a place to turn to. Beyond that . . .

    I’d ask how I can most usefully contribute, but contribute to what exactly? Just what IS there to DO?

    What is it that 238 people can fruitfully do? Or only 31 people? In my experience doing most fruitfully is done by 2 and 3 people, a half dozen, maybe as many as a dozen, beyond that…. Well, there are colleges that field marching bands of 200 or more, but that action is very tightly controlled and orchestrated from the top. The film Apocalypse Now was made by a village distributed in time and space and loosely organized from the top. Within that village, of course, there were smaller groups that worked very tightly indeed.

    I figure that something will continue on, maybe several things, but…

    • hi Bill

      I’m not sure how to answer this, because I think your question “what’s going on with this course” is a difficult one and a matter of perspective. I don’t believe there is any one person who is “on top of” the course, though Howard might be close. I don’t think it’s possible in cMOOCs for anyone to really be “on top” and definitely not one as long as this one with so many spaces and so many facilitators. The thing is, though, that not all of the facilitators are connecting to the same extent as others. But the ones who are connecting seem (from my perspective) to be doing a good job.
      However, as someone who joined the facilitation team mid-way through, I notice that, without meaning to, facilitators might find their own affinity spaces where they interact more often with participants (mine is twitter and blogs, so people who are active on twitter get more of my attention); for others it’s google+ or the forums (Howard is incredibly active all over the place but seems to really like the forums).
      I’d also say that not many people are probably capable of doing all the makes and readings, etc., because we all have lives and other responsibilities. My take on MOOCs that offer lots of opportunities to engage with readings, makes, etc., is that I look at them as examples of assignments I can give my students and sometimes adapt them for that; I’ll only engage with the ones that are worth doing for me. I blogged about this recently: good makes for me are either very low-barrier-to-entry (take little time) or highly sustainable (take lots of time and effort to produce something worthwhile, like research). I also like collaborative ones but that’s not necessary for all things.

      Having said all this, I love the questions you’ve asked and would love to know the answers to them – how do we go about doing so? I’m not sure.

      The one thing I do know, though, is that “success” in connectivist experiences can and should be defined differently by each participants depending on their goals. Maybe someone only benefited from the first week but it made all the difference they needed; maybe someone dips into this unit only, and it gives them what they need; maybe someone (like me) doesn’t really do too many of the readings/videos/makes but participates in cross-blogging about the topics (because I realized that if I spent too long reading/watching I have little time left over to read people’s blogs and comment and write my own blog).

      Would it have made a difference to you, Bill, if more people had been responding to your blogging, for example? And the thing is, what if someone has been blogging and not getting noticed at all? How would they be feeling?

      Recently, Terry Elliott had made some efforts to connect and got no response and got discouraged. This is a really popular guy and really well-connected. What if someone was less connected and made the same efforts only to get no response… how would that feel? How would that influence their learning experience?

      • …or the forums (Howard is incredibly active all over the place but seems to really like the forums).

        I like them too, a lot. I can’t help but noticing that the one for this course isn’t getting used very much & I’m not sure why that is. Is it just that people aren’t familiar with the medium?

        I’d also say that not many people are probably capable of doing all the makes and readings, etc., because we all have lives and other responsibilities.

        Right. But let me say a little about the few expectations I had when I signed up. I figured that I would have to change my habits considerably in order to fit this course work into my schedule. To be sure, there was no credit being given nor, for that matter, was I paying a fee, but I treated this as a course of study with readings and assignments. Certainly someone put in a lot of work organizing all this.

        As things have turned out so far, I’ve certainly put in some time on this course, but not as much as I thought I would (have to). Beyond that . . . I don’t know.

        The one thing I do know, though, is that “success” in connectivist experiences can and should be defined differently by each participants depending on their goals.

        OK. But is that what the organizers had in mind, or doesn’t that matter? I think co-learning is really important to Howard and he wants this course to advance the cause of co-learning. Will it do that? Does that matter to anyone but Howard?

        Would it have made a difference to you, Bill, if more people had been responding to your blogging, for example?

        Well, yes. But I HAVE gotten some response, which is of course good. And if I’d gotten a lot more response I might have ended up spending more time tending the blog that I really wanted to do. Because I really do believe in responding to blog comments.

        And the thing is, what if someone has been blogging and not getting noticed at all? How would they be feeling?

        Good question. And this relates to “being on top” of the course – how would anyone know that this is has happened?

        At some point this “course” just trails off into the web in general. Lots of people put up blogs and get little or no response. What of it? Finding and keeping an audience is really really hard. Most of my own interaction on the web happens in places other than my blog, and I’ve long since adjusted by action and expectations to this.

        I’ve not made any attempt to follow the research that’s been done on MOOCs (of all kinds), but my impression is that the number of people who sign up in the beginning is far larger than then number who stay the course and, of course, only a fraction want actual course credit. That’s fine. And why should this course be any different?

  • Maha Bali

    I love blogposts that give me epiphanies and this one gave me several related to my “virgin ” cMOOC rhizo14 and why #edcmooc “wasn’t it” – my kid won’t let me write properly and it is a lot of ideas so i’ll blog my response! Once she sleeps

  • Paul Signorelli


    As usual, you’ve crafted a well-designed and thought-provoking post that makes me look at my own involvement and participation on both sides (learning as well as designing/facilitating) of connectivist MOOCs and other learning opportunities. Being a big fan of experiential learning, I agree that some level of making is essential, and do believe that blogging can fit that category when we see our blogs as more than personal reflections–they can also be self-contained lessons (particularly through the use of hyperlinks that lead our co-learners to other learning resources).

    I’m not as much concerned about what my co-learners and I make–recommended “makes” sometimes simply don’t support my own learning goals–as I am concerned that we make something that is seamlessly integrated into the learning experience so we have learned something useful, quantifiable, and rewarding to ourselves and others who learn with and from us.

    Thanks for making another learning opp through your own reflections here–and being part of the cross-blog conversations you mentioned (and that now include you, Maha, and me via her post inspired by your comments).

  • On the Make: Co-learning, Making, and Sharing in the Connected Courses (#ccourses) MOOC | Building Creative Bridges

    […] connected via the Connected Courses (#ccourses) massive open online course (MOOC). It started with a self-contained set of reflections, by long-time learning colleague Alan Levine, on what constitutes “a make” (something created […]

  • Jon Becker

    I think it’s time for an honest look at participation in cMOOCs. I have a sneaking suspicion that participation wanes in ways that some wouldn’t want to admit, particularly for “courses” where there’s no *real* incentive (e.g. credit, PD points, etc.).

    Also… how big is the group that carries on with #etmooc?

    And, honestly, how many people really, truly continue to particpate in #ds106?

    This is not to say that connected/networked learning is meaningless. I think there’s a TON to connected/networked learning within the formal educational structures (see e.g. everything we’re trying to do at VCU). And, I think there’s a TON to connected/networked learning outside of the formal educational structures AND outside of the box of a course (i.e. we just learn together, all the time, via blogs, Twitter, etc., but there’s no “curriculum.”). But, that in-between space, where we create “courses” (cMOOCs) with nothing attached to it, well, that’s what I’m starting to question…

    • That’s a fair question, Jon.
      On the one hand, of course you are right, that only a subset of people continue on within these kinds of communities. I can’t speak for #etmooc but for #rhizo14. The things is, though, that this subset (for rhizo14) is something close to a very close-knit 10 people and more loosely-knit 20 others. What happens (in my experience) is that some of these people continue to meet in other connected experiences and some get closer or farther away, and they “add” to the group, so in the end it becomes actually a rather large group. I got close to e.g. 20 people at rhizo14 (you’re making me want to go count them) and then met a few of them again in CLMOOC and we picked up a few more, then saw them again in ccourses, picked up 10 more new people and so on… so that each of our PERSONAL learning network (PLN) grows and is enriched. That’s a group of intersecting communities we each feel we belong to.
      Now that won’t work for every single person and that’s fine. And not every person is looking for that, even. It’s a shame, but it’s true.
      Thinking of f2f, don’t we all occasionally attend workshops or seminars that we are not required to do, that we do for our self-satisfaction? And don’t we sometimes meet the same people at the same places and start to form connections, inform each other about new things, and even occasionally have coffee or lunch with someone we wouldn’t normally have met in the course of our regular work? That’s cMOOCs for me (or one aspect of it). Only online with a wider audience.

      But yes: we often forget to mention the silent voices of people who did not enjoy the MOOC or who dropped out early or who found the environment unfriendly or unwelcoming or confusing or whatever…

      Gosh, this has turned into a blogpost by itself!

    • And, I think there’s a TON to connected/networked learning outside of the formal educational structures AND outside of the box of a course (i.e. we just learn together, all the time, via blogs, Twitter, etc., but there’s no “curriculum.”). But, that in-between space, where we create “courses” (cMOOCs) with nothing attached to it, well, that’s what I’m starting to question…

      Yes. The web’s got it’s own ecology and it’s different from on-the-ground face-to-face. Lots of stuff happens here that can’t happen there. And we’ve got the MOOC things (of various kinds) and there’s probably a steep drop-off for all of them.

      And that may well be the case for this course too, though a steep drop-off from only 300 or so doesn’t leave many sticking around.

      I note, however, this particular course has been set up, not to teach chemistry, or writing, or history, or biology, or whatever, but to teach teaching. The idea is to change how teaching is being done on the web. And the style of teaching it advocates, co-learning, doesn’t admit of sharp drop-off. Or does it?

      I pretty sure that when Howard teaches at Stanford most of the students who start the course also finish it. But that’s not a purely online course; it’s blended. I have no idea about #ds106, but maybe it’s got a “funnel” dynamic too, large on the input side and small on the output side. And it’s only the ones on the output side who form a community of co-learners.

      If so, that’s interesting in itself. I’d think that most MOOCs aren’t like that. The number who finish a computer programming MOOC may be relatively small, but they probably don’t contsitute a community that continues on after the course.

      Does anyone know about this?

  • Sandy Brown Jensen

    Thank you for this reflective post. I joined this “MOOC,” but drifted really quickly because I guess I really am focused on making. I’ve been a radicalized teacher for a reallly long time, so not many mysteries left there, but in art and making, the mysteries are daily and bottomless.

    • Alan Levine aka CogDog

      I’m not sure what happened here on my blog, some sort of party came here while I was idling elsewhere. Thanks everyone.

      Probably more worthy of a more thought out response, but for Jon– what I think happens is when you get at trying to count and measure participation, you get what is easiest to count and measure. My unproven hunch is that often there is more participation that you do not see, I end up getting hints and traces.

      What I think gets lost in the “oh look at all the MOOC dropouts” is that what makes the cONES work best for me, is the ds106, phonar, thoughtvectors, FemTechEd ones best is that there is a core of registered, official, grade seeking students surrounded by the cloud of open participants. That gives it a regular flow of activity. But that’s not a rule. The wide open ones such as ETMOOC, rhizo14, COnnected Courses have a lot of momentum, and ebbs and flows, but I would not call any of them low on participation. And I see few official “courses” that continue on in activity after the grades are turned in.

      To me, we are looking at the wrong end of the glass, all of the evaporation, rather than what remains, the core. If its 10, 20, 40 people who maintain a moderate to high level of activity, and hundreds who don’t, I think that is a gain, not a loss. Those core people directly influence more we do not see, and likely are connected at least in a defined or tailing of period, who who have never done so before. I can count at least 10-15 I have added to me own high level connections from Connected Courses that I would have not been in periphery before.

      I know Jon knows this, but I grow weary of the goal of having to affect by lots of numbers. I’d rather grow a movement by geometric progression (a few affecting a few affecting a few) than trying to do a lot at once. Fractal, baby.

  • Simon Ensor (@sensor63)

    I wanted to reply to Jon Becker about complete stats.

    The dog ate the comment so I wrote a blog post instead.

  • I think we are looking through a rubbish lens. Participation means what?

  • […] That resonated with me over the notion of courses that talk about stuff versus courses that DO stuff. […]

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