Party on…a MOOC allegory

I am part way through a module that forms part of my MA in Online & Distance Education, and am just finishing the first week that has been run as a MOOC. It has been an interesting experience and, when reflecting on it, one metaphor dominates for me. And the metaphor turned into a short story, an allegory, I suppose.

My studies to date have been the equivalent of a series of civilised dinners with a small group of people, gradually getting to know each other. We have been guided by a knowledgeable host through the dishes we were eating and the wines we drank. Conversation was quite serious and at times intense. I am making some friends and learned a lot.

A week ago, I went back to the same house, but the door was opened by a new host (though I’m sure I have seen him before), who ushered me in quickly along with the many people arriving at the same time. The house was full of people, loud music pounded out, and a party was in full swing. In every room, different things were happening. Some contained groups of people conversing intently, or perhaps one person declaiming at length to a group. Others rushed about chatting excitedly with each other, saying how much fun all this was, and some recognised old friends. Others weren’t so happy – complaining about how hard the house had been to find, the party was a bit rubbish really, they had been to one at Coursera that was much better. A few even made a point of saying that they were only looking in and would be off to another party soon. Our hosts circulated, asking us slightly anxiously if we were having a good time and encouraging us to mingle.

And then there were people like me, having a look round and wondering what on earth was going on – I caught glimpses of quite a few of them. The trouble is, I never really was one for large parties (and I suspect many of these others weren’t either). But I did mingle and got into conversation with a couple of people, who turned out to be very nice, helpful people with interesting things to say. But I am still finding it hard to break into the group conversations going on around the house. Never mind, let’s press on into the second week. I’m sure I’ll get into the swing of things, and apparently we have a celebrity special guest arriving soon.

Many people reading this will already be at the party, but if you aren’t, this probably hasn’t made much sense. In that case, feel free to drop in, you aren’t too late. I have heard that most people who attend parties like this leave well before the end but so far I can’t see any signs of it letting up. I can imagine feeling tired by the time I get to the end of the six weeks, but I’ll worry about that then.

Party on, friends.



Filed under H817 Openness and innovation in elearning

11 responses to “Party on…a MOOC allegory

  1. Hi, great analogy for the MOOC. I’m not really one for large parties and groups of people I don’t know but on the other hand I find it much easier to chat to people virtually (as in this MOOC) than in real (physical) life. I’m also enjoying being able to eavesdrop on many different conversations in the MOOC. Sometimes the civilised dinners can get a bit monotonous.

  2. I’m definitely at the same party … although at the moment I’m sat outside, taking a breather from all of the noise, looking through the window and trying to decide whether to go back in! These days I’m more of a small dinner party person but wanted to try something different. Think I will persevere a bit longer with this ‘different’ … but going to sit outside, enjoying the peace a quiet for just a little longer 😉

    • Yes, there is that option, which I use too. Not sure if blogs, which allow for longer posts and more selectivity, are the equivalent of “chill-out zones”. Maybe we shouldn’t push the analogy too far.Hopefully we will both learn to appreciate what this different way has to offer.

  3. Pingback: Party on…a MOOC allegory | Réflexions autour des MOOCs |

  4. I got the invitation to the party but the directions were useless and the party was in a huge block of flats. Someone kept changing the door numbers and when I arrived everyone was taking about opera and I love Jazz.

  5. Hi Daniel – I’m not one for parties either. A few people have reported feeling overwhelmed by all the content, and I think in some ways that’s exactly the point. As Clay Shirky is fond of saying, it’s not information overload, it’s filter failure. So we need to develop appropriate filters – what I like about online communities is that, as Helen says, you can go outside of the party for a while. No-one minds. If I take a break from twitter, say, I don’t get told off when I return. I think we create pressures for ourselves, particularly at the start. When I first started using twitter over 6 years ago I felt like I had to keep posting and reading, but as it settled into ‘normal’ life I felt more comfortable pulling back from it. I can whole days without tweeting now, honest!

    • Thanks for the comment Martin, and I hope you spotted that you made a cameo appearance at the start of the story! I guess there is a specific skill to learning in this way which is different to how most of us have learned previously (George Siemens’ idea of being comfortable in chaos). Certainly an eye-opener anyway, so many thanks for “hosting”.

  6. Hi Daniel, I’ve been to a party like this before…most people are asleep when I arrive. Doesn’t bother me really as I prefer small gatherings to noisy, boisterous events. This one’s a bit different, I’m not really part of the “crowd”….I didn’t chip in for the food, drink etc so I hope people don’t mind that I’ve dropped in for a free ride.

  7. Deirdre Robson

    I too recognise myself at the same party. Perhaps their should have been a ‘quiet’ room for us?

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