14 Replies to “Micro-netnographic artefact: Community pushing through the cracks”

  1. Fantastic artefact, David – I love the way you have presented your xMOOC findings through an xMOOC! The way you have systematically laid out the components of self-determination theory is really clear, but also has the additional layer of us experiencing the highly structured nature of your xMOOC (which you note in your commentary). Also, the ability for us to comment on questions on those different aspects is a great touch – both having the “feeling” of a structured discussion forum, but also allowing us in a way to co-create the artefact! In that sense, it is not a static work and in theory could be co-created with not only your peers (us!) but the participants themselves (if they were to find their way back to your blog/artefact). This all speaks to the entanglements I found during my own micro-ethnography between researcher and site of research (although arguably such a dualism may be problematic).

    I particularly like the use of audio too, which not only allows us to read the commentary while simultaneously listening to (and “soaking in”) the participant comments, but also in a way tells a story (having experienced lots of audio stories on the ds106 radio)!

    There are some brilliant ideas and observations here. The way you have contrasted your xMOOC, superimposing its rigid notion of “virtual community”, with the connectivist approach is particularly interesting for me having looked at a connectivist-informed course/community (where the connections/communities were rich and complex). The idea of a “community pushing through the cracks” – where the community is “still there” somewhere – is perhaps relevant as we move onto our algorithmic cultures block. What connections/community may have been present that you were unable to identify in your xMOOC, and should this even be tracked? In contrast to the connectivist-informed ds106 approach, where the ‘public’ data available is vast, what are the ethical concerns here? What issues of surveillance does this raise, and what precautions should researchers take to protect those in the ‘public domain’ (who may not realise the implications)?

    Thanks for a great artefact – so much food for thought!

    1. Thanks Michael, have equally enjoyed exploring your artefact.
      I feel there was a lot more hidden mental entanglement (or confusion) going on for me in this micro-study than the kind of community-researcher entanglement you demonstrated.

      You raise key questions I’d like to reflect on:
      firstly, the ability to track the areas of connection/community that are not visible xMOOCs – as you’ll be aware, lots of superficial data analytics work focuses on creating inferences about ‘engagemnet’ based upon very little information. View time, clicks on page, scroll speed, even eye-movement tracking. Often seems like grasping at straws in order to justify the collection of more data. So the ethical concerns are really around potential financial, political, social gain that could be achieved by the ‘owners’ of that info.

      I think researchers need to consider more closely how the mere collection of data itself fundamentally alters the data, there is really no such thing as ‘raw data’. The mode of collection and what you decide to collect dramatically influence what you will find. So any further choice about what is then done with the data (from basic statistical visualisation to the training of algorithms) is of questionable value.

      1. I think a lot of the time people like the idea of using fancy analytics because they’ve made something to “fire and forget” in terms of a course. If you launch something and then never go back to see what’s going on in it, then you need some way to justify it still existing (in terms of the time and money spent setting it up and so forth). With the MOOC I looked at, the content is not that likely to change, and the discussion threads seem like a bit of an add on, so there’s no real incentive for the course team to ever look at what’s going on there. MOOCs with no interaction between users at all (like the one I took part in during the IDEL course (it was on using Unity to produce VR worlds) probably need to justify themselves even more.

        They all cost time and money to set up, and I don’t think anyone sets them up out of the goodness of their heart, so they’re looking for some sort of return on investment at the end of the day. Perhaps through analytics they can find a way to market to advertisers (if they want to keep courses free to use) or to potential users who will be paying. Being able to dazzle potential sources of income with fancy graphs showing data collected using the latest methods is probably more about the market than user experience. Well, thinking about this has put a downer on my day…

        1. Sorry Matt,
          Yeah I feel often Learngin Analytics stuff has a tendency to do that. Occasionally, I’ve had inspiring conversations with data science academics and teachers who say they’ve been able to do very interesting things with xAPI by collecting info from multiple digital spaces where they have their students work. This is then used to provide an instructor with insights into how students are working, where they’re working and feeding that back to students to help them self-assess their work.

          So, for example, not just getting data from the LMS but from multiple sources, wordpress, social media, whatever. CHeck this out: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1k7Tlp5Nj1Xtc31TVPelyNsj-ZZMA_u0EuZPy-96ZgB0/edit?usp=sharing

  2. David,
    This is a wonderful piece of work with a variety of audio, text based, clickable content and accessibility built in.
    I love the padlet in the autonomy section! I played with a response there.

    I like the expressive use of language when describing the feeling of being inside the course- “You could sense the community hiding somewhere behind the rigid divisions and course content and profile set up”.

    Another line that caught my eye:- Those who can manage to study independently can flourish in the MOOC, perhaps even becoming opinionators- while those with fewer external and internal resources at their disposal may find certain MOOCs utterly bewildering.

    On Autonomy: I agree that MOOCs are more beneficial to independent and self directed learners, than to those learners who need more correspondence and guidance. This reminds me of the article posted by JonJack a few weeks ago (Link below).

    The article states that most students doing Moocs already have a degree and I guess that with that, a graduate’s confidence and study skills gifting an autonomy and advantage over a person who has been away from education.
    https://edc20.education.ed.ac.uk/jjack/2020/02/06/mooc-fans-step-out-of-the-shadows-education-the-guardian

    1. Hi Adrienne,
      Thanks for contributing to the padlet and for your response to the artefact.
      I had skimmed that article but missed the pat about how most MOOCers have a degree already. That really challenges the narrative around MOOCs as opening education to those who can’t easily access it.
      On accessibility, I’ve just been able to update most of the audio with a text version now. Still working on the text-version for the long podcast, it is arduous work even when I have access to machine captioning, that’s ideal for video but requires a lot of editing to make it suitable for a podcast. I guess that’s why so many podcasters are doing video now as well.
      Thanks again!

  3. Hi David,
    Really well put together ethnography.

    That is a great question, are we looking for “community and/or a sense of community?” And what is the difference between the two? We talk about the importance of social learning, on the idea of learning together. How can MOOCs achieve this and is this even their goal? 

    “Basically, when we think of what is possible for virtual communities, it’s clear that the corporate xMOOCs aren’t even trying to replicate that. If anything they’re a shabby imitation, drawing on the potentiality of the idea of virtual community rather than actually generating it.” And that is our answer. It sounds like MOOCs are not interested in building communities because they don’t see the purpose. 

    Maybe I missed it but who were you talking with in your audio of Autonomy? Was it someone from your MOOC? Just curious. 

    Again, great artifact!

    1. Hi Monica,
      Thanks for your comments and observations. My chat companion is my partner Renee, who is a teacher herself but also Doctor of Sociology of Religion, and Coaching Psychology. So a very valuable asset for me to bounce ideas off. I’m very lucky Renee is so patient with my learning process and so willing to be involved! https://sydney.academia.edu/ReneeLockwood

  4. Hi David,
    This was really original. The metaphor of the roots really brought home the ‘lonely posts floating around out there.’ You managed to turn round the lack of community behind the MOOC into something that is extremely valid for this section on online communities. I felt something similar in the first MOOC I chose which I then changed. You, on the other hand, persevered and managed. Equally interesting is the idea of marketing MOOC communities and the chasm that exists between being a community and feeling a sense of community.

    Having gone through your artefact a number of times, my question is whether community spirit can be sacrificed in favour of a cheaper and faster way to accrue credits or certificates, thereby encouraging independent (and possibly solitary) learning even more?

    1. Thanks Val,

      I think your question hits the mark exactly! It’s hard to tell just form this small study, but I suspect if there was a longitudinal and comprehensive study of xMOOC providers, it would expose that fact even more. Looking at the small sample of studies we have in our class, that seems to be the case.

      However, the sub-theories of SDT would suggest that if we take away relatedness (that potential for meaningful connection) from education, then the social benefit that is the mandate of educational institutions would drop dramatically. That’s just my feeling. I think xMOOCs, for the most part, are ways to cheaply meet professional development milestones and fulfill KPIs or whatever. Thus upholding existing unjust power structures in technology characterised by the convergence of machinic enslavement and social subjection: https://transversal.at/transversal/1106/lazzarato/en

  5. Thank you for sharing your amazing micro-netnography, David!
    Your artefact is so inspiring in terms of content and multimodality.
    The MOOC I chose was also an x-MOOC and professional development program that charges students 147 US dollars. It might be expected that it has some limitations, but few students were trying to expand their discussions but failed because of the lack of tutors’ presence and excessive volume of comments(which were mostly bland ‘agreed’ or almost the same stories to others’) I assume.
    I think this ‘Massive’ feature has lead to a lack of interaction(so, education). But some are working on addressing this issue such as cMOOCs and DOCC, but some are exploiting this to pursuit profit and create a new market.

    1. Yes, and I don’t think this trend is limited to xMOOCs. In Australia, Higher Education is often big business now and I frequently see the effects of this unscrupulous environment on students and teachers.

      Particularly now with the Coronavirus pandemic and travel bans China, the overwhelming concern is related to the financial impact on the HE sector and retaining the lucrative Chinese student market. The secondary concern is for the learning experience of students who can’t get to Australia but want to study online.

      Minimising the cost related to online study means often, though not always, the first thing sacrificed is the fostering of a sense of community. Some of this is down to institutions lack of time to invest in these but also the over-work of academic staff who must ‘look after’ massive cohorts of hundreds and sometimes thousands of students.

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