I finally got around to reading “Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade” and a quote from one of the #rhizo14 participants the authors surveyed caught my eye. He or she described the #rhizo14 experience as being composed of “disjointed networks of pre-established subgroups.”
To some extent, that was how I experienced #rhizo15. Having been uninvolved or involved only at the very periphery of the previous year’s #rhizo14 experience and various other MOOC and MOOC-like experiences that the most active participants appear to have been part of together, I felt some sense of the outsider looking in. I was surprised at how solid the group formations already were (or seemed) before the course even started.
This isn’t a criticism: that my participation quickly dwindled was fundamentally a matter of the choices I made in how to engage (or not). But the comment made me think about what I was and wasn’t able to take away from the experience that might be applicable to my own practice:
Some (a very small number) of the tweets and comments bordered on hero-worship. That’s uninteresting except that it points to how much the success of #rhizo15 depended on Dave’s position and personality…and I suspect the combination of these tendencies and so many who already had shared experiences explains the nearly complete absence of anyone challenging any aspects of the nature of the #rhizo15 experience itself.
We who don’t have an avid following aren’t going to have much success throwing up a video every week and drawing a crowd of many hundreds or thousands, no matter how provocative or insightful the idea…and given the dynamics of communities and the various roles needed for them to be healthy, this is a situation where size does matter. I like the “big idea” approach, though, foregrounding the big questions that too often lie hidden beneath the surface of the mundane and organizing the experience around them.
Something about the radically de-centered nature of the course appeals deeply to me, though I can barely dip into those waters when teaching formal classes. So a challenge for me is how to facilitate sustained engagement, self-organizing activities and group exploration and cohesion within the bounds of academic terms, defined outcomes and required grades.
I’m intrigued by some of the artistry that emerged. I’m doubly intrigued by the sparks when the artistic expression meets the formalized expression. There’s more than a little of the Two Cultures problem involved here, the divides between formal and informal, art and craft, research and…well, whatever the “other” is.