"Campus Network" by pjs880 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
“Campus Network” by pjs880 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

We approach the theme of community cultures in tandem with that of ‘virtual ethnography’. The idea over this four week block, is that you will identify a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and do a piece of micro-research on it, drawing on the principles of virtual ethnography, and keeping in mind our explorations of community cultures. We will have group discussions around this, but in conducting your micro-ethnography you will be working alone. By the end of the block (week 7: 1st March) you will have published the findings from your piece of work using an online application of your choice, and feeding it into your lifestream blog.

The core readings for this block aim to introduce you to notions of ‘community’, as well as ides about ‘virtual ethnography’. You will also find in the readings section links to some examples of research which takes a (very broadly) ‘virtual ethnographic’ approach. Clearly, you are not going to be able to achieve anything like this depth and level of analysis in a short and exploratory piece of work for this course, but the examples will hopefully spark some ideas and give a sense of what might be done.

The meteoric rise of MOOCs will be an important theme in this block, surfacing important issues about the size, location and cohesion of ‘learning communities’ when education is conducted at scale.  Take a look at the Choose your MOOC page to find out more and see which courses are available for your micro-ethnography.

The general plan of work for the coming three weeks is as follows:

week 4 (3rd – 9th Feb)
Spend time in the Moodle block 2 forum, discussing MOOC choices and brainstorming ideas for how you might present your micro-ethnography findings. Link to our discussion space here.

weeks 5 (10th – 16th February)
Begin your MOOC micro-ethnography and attend the Block 2 Hangout (on Tuesday 18th or Wednesday 19th February) to discuss your progress alongside the readings.

week 6 (17th – 23rd February)
Continue your MOOC micro-ethnography and begin to pull your findings together into a format or space that can be included in your lifestream blog. Take a look at some of these ideas for building your ethnographic ‘artefact’, and discuss your ideas with the group.

week 7 (24th Feb – 1st Mar)
Complete your MOOC micro-ethnography and make sure that it is included in your lifestream blog.  Share the link to your work in the Moodle forum or on Twitter, and spend some time viewing and commenting on the work of your peers.

You are going to have to be quite modest in what you try to achieve over these three weeks, so please bear in mind that whatever you choose will need to be ‘micro’ indeed and of manageable scope for a 3/4 week foray.