About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 6430-6432
Publication year: 2016
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.0384

Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain


R. Ferriday

Cardiff University (UNITED KINGDOM)
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been part of the learning technology zeitgeist for several years now, and their teaching and learning methods have attracted fans and detractors in equal numbers. Intrigued by this ‘love them or hate them’ polarisation, I enrolled onto my first MOOC one year ago: my intention to examine the process both as student and learning technologist. It was here that I encountered one of the simplest and most effective online learning models I have experienced.

The course was structured around six weekly sessions, with each session made up of 12-15 bite sized ‘chunks’ of information. These chunks consisted of a brief film or audio file or, more usually, one or two concise paragraphs. These bite sized pieces of information clearly and concisely introduced concepts or ideas as no more than pedagogic ‘amuse-bouches’, with further, in depth teaching and learning carried out by the students themselves.

The process by which this happened was both simple and, from an organisation of information perspective, easy to manage. A single discussion thread was attached to each chunk of information. There was no requirement for students to comment, or read peers’ comments, yet these threads immediately became the place for further learning. Here, the student community built a number of very specific knowledge bases constructed from shared anecdotal experience and professional knowledge. Questions were asked and responses and opinions given, and all of this happened without the course tutor needing to be involved in any way. Over and above this, students also shared links to relevant web pages, journal articles, film clips and book recommendations with many discussion threads forming self-contained repositories of learning. As Karen Stephenson (1997) states:

“Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people.”

Looking at this MOOC as a whole, it seems apparent that this particular form of peer teaching and learning adheres to many of the principles of Connectivism – namely:

“Learning and knowledge rests in a diversity of opinions (and) is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources. Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning and the ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill.” (Siemens, 2005)

Students connected with and learned from one another, individually self-selecting the amount and depth of information that they felt was suitable. The process was organic, managed easily within each thread and directed by the course tutor.

Interested to see whether other participants found this model of online teaching and learning as conducive to learning as I had, at the end of the course I carried out some small-scale, qualitative research by way of an online survey. Results showed that an overwhelming number of students had responded positively to the model of online pedagogy used, and had enjoyed the experiences of learning through a MOOC. As a direct response to this, I would like to introduce this organic, self-managed framework for teaching and learning as a way for practitioners looking to make online learning a less didactic and passive learning experience.
author = {Ferriday, R.},
series = {8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN16 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-608-8860-4},
issn = {2340-1117},
doi = {10.21125/edulearn.2016.0384},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2016.0384},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {4-6 July, 2016},
year = {2016},
pages = {6430-6432}}
AU - R. Ferriday
SN - 978-84-608-8860-4/2340-1117
DO - 10.21125/edulearn.2016.0384
PY - 2016
Y1 - 4-6 July, 2016
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN16 Proceedings
SP - 6430
EP - 6432
ER -
R. Ferriday (2016) MIGHTY OAKS FROM LITTLE ACORNS GROW, EDULEARN16 Proceedings, pp. 6430-6432.