Photo by Anthony Tori on Unsplash

The latest topic for #El30 was Community. Stephen set an open ended task for course participants to, as a community ( I believe this was meant in a loose way), come up with and reach consensus on a task, the completion of which denotes being a member of the community.

As a community, create an assignment the completion of which denotes being a member of the community. For the purposes of this task, there can only be one community. For each participant, your being a member of the community completes the task.


Further to this, Stephen added his own nice decentralised twist

This week’s task is deliberately open-ended. It requires the formation of a community, but only one community, with tangible evidence of consensus. How to do this? How to even get started? That’s the challenge…

Some people may ask, “What’s the point?” Well, as we discussed in this week’s conversation (also in this newsletter) it’s a challenge to create consensus without deferring to an authority – a trusted source, if you will. In a course like this, that’s usually the instructor. But not this time. This is – on a small scale – the same problem we have on a larger scale. How do we create consensus with no common ground?

This task is challenging on several fronts. Can a community be created at all? What if there are competing communities? How many participants can the community actually encompass? How do people join at all? The conditions for succeeding in this assignment are very simple – be a member of that community. But the manner in which this is to be accomplished is not clear at all.


Out of this challenge sprung some proposals in the form of blog posts on participants sites. I was delighted to see this as I had been puzzling for a short while on how we as a group of participants would manage to get started with trying to reach a consensus without a ‘central’ node that we all had access to – the actual MOOC itself probably being the only node I could think of, and none of the participants outside of Stephen can edit that directly. Anyone who completed the earlier task of subscribing to the course feed list through their RSS aggregator of choice would have been able to see the proposal posts for this task appear there. The first proposal I encountered on my RSS was from Roland

I suggest we all post about our experiences in this course. It would be a short or long piece about the content, the way it’s being organized, the way the learners did or did not interact with each other or how we reacted in blog posts and on social media.
Such a post seems like a natural thing to do, there are no good or bad posts, yet it would affirm our being together in this thing – #el30.


I really liked the idea of posting about our course experiences to date and commented on Roland’s post agreeing with his proposal as tangible evidence of trying to arrive at group consensus. I had seen that other participants had also expressed their agreement in the comments section of the post.

With that proposal in mind I will catalogue a brief synopsis of my experiences to date on the E-Learning 3.0 journey.

My experiences of this course

Researching, reading and writing takes a substantial time for me. I find it difficult. Derek Sivers sums me up perfectly when he writes

I’m a very slow thinker.
When a friend says something interesting to me, I usually don’t have a reaction until much later.

When someone asks me a deep question, I say, “Hmm. I don’t know.” The next morning, I have an answer.

I’m a disappointing person to try to debate or attack. I just have nothing to say in the moment, except maybe, “Good point.” Then a few days later, after thinking about it a lot, I have a response.


I could also add the word ‘reader’ to that.

In truth, this is the first cMOOC I have ‘registered for’ and participated in (as best I could at least; I have a lot of learning and practice to do to improve my overall participation online). I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It has been a challenge but a wholly worthwhile one. The content and conversation has been of a very high-quality.

I don’t think I would consider participation on #EL30 as the formation of a ‘community’. Despite that, in a way, I still feel some sort of connection to the group. A shared journey or the likes. Here I will defer to more knowledgeable participants who provide useful descriptions for what they believe it to be:

At most, I would compare it to the residence or municipality community which is defined by something like a common zip code (here, by using the hashcode el30), and whose residents have, in a certain limited sense, a common ‘fate‘ (again limited, to the 9 weeks).

Matthias Melcher (x28)

An affinity space is a place – virtual or physical – where informal learning takes place. According to James Paul Gee, affinity spaces are locations where groups of people are drawn together because of a shared, strong interest or engagement in a common activity.

Kevin Hodgson (dogtrax)

Much of the course content is still in flux in my mind. I often find myself mulling over it to see if I have understood it well or considering where it might be applied in my practice. I have found all of the topics to date very interesting, even though I have admittedly grasped some of them far better than others. I really enjoy both the technical and academic focus that comprises each topic.

Some of it sits quite easily with the work I am doing in higher education. More of it is a little like trying to stand still on shifting tectonic plates.

I agree with the original intent and premise that

the idea of the Internet – distributed, social, networked – influences the structure of education, teaching, and learning.


and subscribe to this in an ideological sense, however, the many ways that this might manifest in higher education remains to be seen. I suppose from being a reader and great admirer of Audrey Watters extensive work, I am a bit skeptical of anything that attempts to predict future trends of educational technology and of what drives that within higher education. Saying that, this experience has been different.

I love how Stephen used his own open source software (gRSShopper) to build the MOOC on, how he emphasised free use of an RSS feed aggregator to keep track of each participants blog posts on, and of how he highlights the importance of decentralisation versus centralisation of power and influence. This is all incredible and something I feel I also buy into.

I learned a huge amount from reading Stephen’s commentaries, the links provided to resources, and from all participants blog posts via my RSS aggregator.

As someone who actually created this website in order to be able to communicate and interact on #EL30, the major difficulty for me has lay in trying to keep apace with regular tasks and with writing something coherent.

Design of the course and Interaction

As someone who works in learning experience/instructional design of  online and blended programmes for postgraduate and professional education, I really enjoyed the explorative and reflective nature of the course. It was very clearly structured, module by module. I loved the synopsis for each topic and the links to further resources to aid expand upon thoughts, if you so wished to. From the moment I saw the course, I felt it was very intuitive. I thought the predominantly asynchronous nature of it suited very well. It allowed me time to

  • read about, reflect on and grasp complex concepts,
  • view weekly online video conversations between Stephen and guests in my own time,
  • review resources sourced by Stephen, other participants and myself,
  • keep an eye on the backchannel social media streams – Twitter and Mastodon,
  • generate my own ideas to write blog posts about them,
  • read and comment on fellow participants blog posts,
  • complete tasks and build competencies along the way.

Stephen certainly walks the talk of Open Educational Practices (OEP) with #EL30. Each week we are provided with a link to view the working summary article for that weeks topic. Not alone are we provided with just a link to view, we are always actively encouraged by Stephen to contribute to the document if we feel that we can – to post comments, suggestions, further resources. This is the first time I have encountered this and to be honest I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to contribute, even though I know it is possible. I tend to take a sneak peek at the end of topic article before it comes out on the newsletter as it is always extremely informative and detailed.

I see that some people live out a portion of their lives on social media. I am not one of those people. For some reason I find I have somewhat of a natural inclination to not post on social media platforms, even though I do have Twitter and Mastodon accounts. It’s not that I think sharing is a bad thing, I just often find myself self-questioning myself before making a post – “Is this really going to be valuable to somebody” or “will it make a difference if I post this or not”? Very nihilist of me! I’m probably a little bit independent and happy to be – engaging on social media doesn’t captivate me.

Some people participating on #EL30 are far more accomplished and prolific bloggers, writers, educators and names in their respective fields. It has been a pleasure and privilege to communicate and interact on some level with each of them.

A key take away for me from the experience to date is that I need to make more time to get my thoughts out and down – outside of participating on a MOOC – and to become more proactive about posting rather than reactive to what others are writing.

Featured Image by Anthony Tori on Unsplash