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Multiple pathways: Blending xMOOCs & cMOOCs

I’m running a MOOC on edX in fall on Data Analytics & Learning (registration will be open soon). As part of this process, we organized a designjam recently bringing together 20 or so folks to think through the design process. I’ll post separately on this event. For now, I just want to highlight one aspect of the meeting: the difference between xMOOCs & cMOOCs and possible ways to blend them.

The interest in making xMOOCs more like cMOOCs (a few silly folks have called it MOOC 2.0 – haha) seems to be growing. In particular, MOOC providers are adding “social” in the same way that vitamins are added to food, “Now, with beta-carotene”! After much discussion at our designjam, I’ve concluded that cMOOCs and xMOOCs are incompatible. They cannot be blended. Pedagogically and philosophically, they are too different. It’s like trying to make a cat a dog. Entertaining, perhaps, but a fruitless venture.

Where I think xMOOCs and cMOOCs can work together is as parallel tracks where learners can navigate from one approach to another. During the designjam, I described this as needed pathways based on learner needs at different time in their learning. For example, when I engage with a new content area, I enjoy some structure and guidance. At other moments, I have random urges to create things. Learners should have freedom to bounce between structure and unstructured pathways based on personal interest.

Matt Crosslin captures these concepts in his blog post (and image below):


  1. dkernohan wrote:

    Have you looked at the work Sian Bayne and her team are doing at Edinburgh on their Coursera MOOC? (edcmooc)

    That, to me, looked like a convincing use of an xMOOC platform to deliver a cMOOC-like experience.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink
  2. Paul wrote:

    That diagram looks to me like what happens in MOOCs anyway. Some people in cMOOCs are lurkers who follow the blue path by consuming content. Some people in xMOOCs set up groups in Facebook for a more collaborative experience, like the yellow path. In either case, learners decide how they want to engage with the course and proceed through it. The difference is that a cMOOC allows people to take the low road, whereas people take the high road in spite of an xMOOC.

    Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  3. Those are good insights Paul that I agree with. I think the importance of working on a design like this rests with the word “some.” Some people in xMOOCs do form groups, but some people (like me) search and search and search for groups and just run into people that aren’t interested and then give up on the xMOOC because I am just not interested in consuming content. So, we really want to move beyond “allowing” and “spite-ing” to “supporting” these valid paths through the course. Which is not to say that I think you don’t already know that – just building on your excellent insight.

    Friday, May 9, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink
  4. Paul-Olivier Dehaye wrote:

    See the other Paul’s post for the color coding used below.

    I have had similar ideas. To me, the main issue is whether the blue/xMOOC/imposed path contains content that has been produced in the yellow/cMOOC/collaborative path. Content migrates yellow to blue.
    I have a DIY solution that uses both edx and coursera. Coursera is blue, edX is yellow. I will try it out in my coursera course in June.
    The short length of the course is because this is the way I artificially create cohorts on coursera (the course will restart right after, but the blue road will be a bit longer by then) and hope to handle some level of a/synchronicity. The challenging bit is of course the yellow road. For this some of my students/team have been building tools to integrate with edx, and I am reusing a lot of other tools. Added challenges are that I am doing this alone, in my free time, want to do it without institutional support, on a very tight budget and replicable. A very big “cheat” is the topic, which will facilitate the experiment a lot.

    Friday, May 9, 2014 at 9:30 pm | Permalink
  5. Interesting idea – creating a path for learner content to be integrated into the xMOOC path. Maybe a voting system where most helpful / insightful stuff becomes integrated. Of course, instructors can always grab stuff, but I wonder about a way to help the massive community vote stuff to the top. Maybe that is where a Reddit like idea could come into play? Student work could be organized into sub-reddish by topic and voted up.

    Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink
  6. Paul-Olivier Dehaye wrote:

    Hi Matt,
    Yes, and there are self-hosted open source solutions for this: for instance. Scales extremely well.

    Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink
  7. Paul-Olivier Dehaye wrote:

    OK, this blog post encouraged me to proceed already now with my ideas. In my head, #MassiveTeaching is blue and (some of) #practiceMOOC is yellow (because not all yellow content should be reintegrated within the blue).

    In Matt’s words, I will most likely just “grab” stuff for now, with only a very basic up/down system. / reddit / or similar tool would only kick in later.

    Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Permalink
  8. Paul-Olivier Dehaye wrote:

    Actually, thinking about it more, the original suggestion is very close to what I did in September 2013, on a small scale:

    You see two courses: one is the blue track, one is the yellow track. I didn’t reintegrate one into the other, but I could and should have.

    The only thing, of course, is that this wasn’t distributed world wide. I encouraged students to use the tools “as if” in the blue track (for recording their interactions for others to see), but of course students also met with each other and with me in real life.

    Monday, May 12, 2014 at 11:24 pm | Permalink
  9. Paz Prendes wrote:

    I agree with the impossibility to blend this two models. In the middle of xMOOC you have the content, nevertheless in the middle of cMOOC you have the community of learners and their interaction. You can try to put some social tools in xMOOC, but you cannot understand the power of social learning if you don´t believe in it… and finally is so different as it´s the difference between conductism or constructivism.

    Monday, May 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Permalink