MOOC Audiences

Chapter Four

In a world of divergent MOOC types, we are left comparing the differences in ways that diverge them further. Yet it seems surprising that the similarities which remain have been left quietly in the background

Pondering the structures of typical c- and x-MOOC constructs highlights the similarities and overlapping nature of their distinguishing qualities. However, irrespective of the MOOC created, they are all designed with the purpose to engage. Within this engagement lies two main categories of course interactors: those who initially structure the course [authors] and those who engage with (and/or co-create) the content [learners].

As seen most explicitly through connectivist MOOCs, the boundaries between authors and learners often blur, with authors providing content in-line with other learners, thus equally fulfilling a learner role once the course has started. This can be seen throughout the CCK08, MobiMOOC and EDC MOOC spaces, whereby those who initially created the structure of the course became equally a part of the content-creation conversation, e.g. through blogs and publishing their own responses to the topics and other content created. Fluid boundary transgressions instil equability in the system, suggesting movement away from capitalist-specific modes, which Pederson (2010) suggested were at the core of traditional Western education systems.

The author’s initial and primary role in the MOOC is developing the course scaffold; the author undertakes a searching/sourcing task of collating a collection of resources for others to engage with, in itself is a learning process which others (namely the learners) will subsequently learn from once published.

The Post-MOOCan MOOC 2013 began life as a multimodal blog site – – archiving resources for use in the MOOC itself. Connectivist inspired, the blog like the ultimate course was open to the world and attracted small volumes of webtraffic without promotion, likely as a result of direct weblinks made, and the shape of the MOOC was directly influenced by emergent themes from resource collation on the blog. This resulted in a transformative learning experience for both author and learners alike.

The engagement and experience of a MOOC learner is also not a uniform process – each individual engages with the course in different ways dependent on what they wish to get out of the course. As a user of multiple MOOCs, I have never been interested in gaining a certificate, rather finding weaving through the resources, often outwith suggested order, or lurking on forums far better suited to my objectives and time constraints, whereas others enjoy a strict weekly structure and prescribed activities. This diversity of engagement is supported by course site interaction data – no course has found that all learners engage with activities comparably. For example, of the 165,000+ active users of 2013 Edinburgh MOOCs, 69% engaged with video materials (where applicable), 15% participated on the course forums, whilst almost 35,000 gained statements of accomplishment (completion certificates), not to mention the 1000s of study groups and social media discussions held.

‘Networking’ is both a feminist practice and a multinational corporate strategy – weaving is for oppositional cyborgs.

Haraway – Cyborg Manifesto (2007)

The ability for a learner to shape their own learning experience is important when an author is creating a course for a diverse (and often unknown) audience – each learner comes with no only their own learning style but individual reasons for engaging with the course itself. We are not self-identical (Haraway, 2003). As Donald Clark highlights in his blog post ‘Who’s using MOOCs?’ a diverse number of target audiences have emerged for MOOCs over the past few years from internal HEI students to government officials and alumni. This diversity brings about new challenges for MOOC authors in ensuring equability of experience across the diverse group.

Interestingly, Clark notes that the largest group of MOOC participants are life-long learners – a group which by definition are not learning to fulfil capitalist need, instead learning because they have a genuine thirst to just learn more.
In the previous chapter, we touched upon the notion of ‘self-betterment’ being intrinsically human-centred but the individual themselves may adopt a more/less posthuman lens. Edwards (2010) approaches the notion of the long-life learner from a very different angle, decentring the human subject through focus on the object being represented in the learning process – rather than viewing transformation at the human level, it is the (non-human) thing being gathered in this learning process which undergoes the transformation; the resources gathered are viewed in new contexts and thus are transformed.

Viewing the resources as central rather than the learners who merely manipulate them, reduces initial anxiety that education is by definition a human-focused venture – the human in this context would simply provide another mode for expression and reanalysis, but is mutually dependent on the non-human matter for existence.



Clark, D. – Plan B blog entry “MOOCs: Who’s using MOOCs? 10 different target audiences”.

Edwards, R. (2010). The end of lifelong learning: A posthuman condition? Studies in the Education of Adults, vol. 42 (1) pp. 5-17.

Haraway, D. (2003) ‘Interview with Donna Haraway’, in D. Ihde and E. Selinger (eds) Chasing Technoscience: Matrix for Materiality, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Haraway, D. (2007). “A cyborg manifesto” from Bell, David; Kennedy, Barbara M (eds), The cybercultures reader. pp. 34-65, London: Routledge.

Pedersen, H. (2010). Animals in schools: Processes and strategies in human-animal education. West Lafayette. IN: Purdue University Press.



One response to “MOOC Audiences

  1. Pingback: Structure | Post-Human MOOCs·

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