Digital Pedagogy and MOOCification

Notes from the “Digital Pedagogy and MOOCification” seminar I hosted with Sean Michael Morris for NITLE:

Digital Pedagogy and MOOCification

by Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel

National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) Seminar

Jesse Stommel is the Director of English and Digital Humanities at Marylhurst University. He is also Co-founder and Director of Hybrid Pedagogy. He earned a Ph.D. in English literature from University of Colorado Boulder and recently finished a fellowship in digital pedagogy at Georgia Tech. He specializes in digital pedagogy, open education, and digital humanities. (@Jessifer)

Sean Michael Morris is a part-time faculty member for Marylhurst University and Manager of Educational Outreach for Hybrid Pedagogy. His work focuses on contemplative pedagogy in digital environments, specializing in the blending of analog and digital pedagogies with an eye toward creative disruption and invention. (@slamteacher)

Together, Jesse and Sean designed and facilitated MOOC MOOC in August 2012 with over 600 participants and again in January 2013 with over 1000 participants. MOOC MOOC, a mini-MOOC, a meta-MOOC, a MOOC about MOOCs, is a week-long course that playfully investigates the form of the MOOC with an eye toward adapting its pedagogies for other learning environments.

Seminar Description:

During this seminar, we will discuss the viability of MOOCs as a pedagogical mode, especially at small undergraduate institutions. Even if we don’t agree that the MOOC can be a viable educational form, can we outline useful pedagogical practices that MOOCs inspire? This seminar investigates the techniques that MOOCs point toward which can be used in on-ground, hybrid, and online classrooms, no matter the scale.

Recommended Reading:

Jesse Stommel, “The March of MOOCs: Monstrous Open Online Courses”

Sean Michael Morris, “The Provocation of MOOCs”

Janine DeBaise, “Learn Like an Arachnid: Why I’m MOOCifying”

Dave Cormier, “What Is a MOOC?”

A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age

This presentation is meant to spark conversation, debate, and collaboration around the notion that massive open online courses (MOOCs) provide opportunities to reimagine digital, hybrid, and traditional pedagogies due to the networked and large-scale nature of the courses. Because the teaching and learning challenges within MOOCs are significant, new approaches must be developed to make them effective. It’s our belief that certain of these approaches can be (and perhaps should be) applied to smaller courses, regardless of delivery (digital or analog); in fact, it’s conceivable that these new approaches are among the most valuable aspects of the advent of MOOCs.

New Digital Pedagogies:

As Sean says in his article, The Provocation of MOOCs, “Within MOOCs lies not an improvement upon the classroom, nor a substitute for higher education, nor a reduction of all things pedagogical. Within the MOOC lies something yet unstirred, yet unrealized. And that potential requires different personal, pedagogical, administrative, and institutional approaches than we’ve practiced before.” MOOC MOOC took the approach of a wildly open pedagogy, asking participants to provide their own content to a great extent, and offering only a skeletal structure for discussion and collaboration. The result, however, was one in which the community of participants were inventive, creative, and intensely productive. Going in, we did not know what the final outcomes of the course would be (in fact, we asked the participants to write these late in the week), but we anticipated a need to be radically flexible in the presentation of the course.

Jesse writes in “Online Learning: a Manifesto”: “The first mistake of many online classes and the majority of MOOCs (so far) is that they try to replicate something we do in face-to-face classes, mapping the (sometimes pedagogically-sound, sometimes bizarre) traditions of on-ground institutions onto digital space. Trying to make an online class function exactly like an on-ground class is a missed opportunity.” Rather, the digital offers the potential for new pedagogies and opportunities for different sorts of learners (some who might not otherwise have access to education). We use digital tools, not because they can replace or replicate some aspect of traditional on-ground learning, but because they can (in some cases) help us more fully realize the goals of our pedagogies.

Some critics of MOOCs hold that these massive courses cannot possibly be interactive, and certainly not at the level of the traditional classroom. Because of the sheer number of participants, facilitators can indeed be hard-put to set the table for meaningful discussion and collaboration. However, as analytics from MOOC MOOC demonstrate, interaction is not only possible, it has the potential to be far more dynamic in MOOCs than in on-ground courses.

Analytics and #moocmooc” by Sheila MacNeill

An interactive graphic representation of #moocmooc Twitter participation by Martin Hawksey

Analysing threaded Twitter discussions from large archives using NodeXL by Martin Hawksey

#moocmooc tagged twitter posts for first six days of MOOC MOOC by Andrew Staroscik

Curated archive of blog posts, articles, and videos from MOOC MOOC


The idea of MOOCification came about during the first MOOC MOOC course in August 2012. Several participants in the course left the week with a strong feeling that there were pedagogical approaches they could incorporate into their on-ground, hybrid and small-format online classes. The pedagogy of the MOOC, it seemed, did not depend upon size — it depended on a willingness and desire to connect learners to one another and to the broader digital world.

In “A MOOC is not a Thing: Emergence, Disruption, and Higher Education,” Sean and Jesse define MOOCification: “to harness (in an instant) the power of a nodal network for learning. Rather than creating a course to structure a network, MOOCification relies on nodes to power a learning activity (or assignment). MOOCification also refers to a pedagogical approach inspired by MOOCs that is unleashed in an otherwise closed or small-format course.”

In his post, “How to MOOCify Your Course, and Why”, Dominik Lukes describes four primary tools that make a small course feel massive, and that allow on-ground classrooms to become effectively hybrid and connected: a course hub of some kind, the use of blogs by students and teacher alike, Twitter, and a webinar-like platform that allows for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. Other tools may include: RSS implementation, curation tools, multimedia tools, social bookmarking sites, and more. During MOOC MOOC, a list of “sexy tools” was developed by the participants and can be found here.

Moving Forward:

If there’s one thing that designing and facilitating MOOC MOOC has taught us, it’s that very little is yet known about the potential housed in multi-nodal learning environments like MOOCs. More investigation is needed. That is why we invite you to consider the questions below, to join us in the ongoing #moocmooc discussion on Twitter, and to discover new ways to create mini-, micro, and meta-MOOCs of your own — whether online, within a hybrid environment, or in your traditional classroom.

Questions to Consider:

  1. How do MOOCs disrupt the traditional curriculums, economies, and power dynamics of higher ed.?
  2. How do we measure success within a MOOC?
  3. What are the various pedagogies of MOOCs (play, experimentation, active learning)? Can these pedagogies be equally effective in various disciplines (humanities, sciences)?
  4. How do we build community within and between MOOCs? And how do we make connections between online and in-person, formal and informal, learning communities?
  5. How can we leverage the pedagogies and community-building aspects of MOOCs for use in our small-format on-ground or online courses?

Collaborative Google Doc Activity

Jesse Stommel

Jesse Stommel

Jesse Stommel is faculty at University of Denver and founder of Hybrid Pedagogy. He teaches pedagogy, digital studies, and composition. He spends most of his time with his badass daughter, Hazel.

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