Home > general > Do MOOCs have a critical mass?

Do MOOCs have a critical mass?

Hello everyone,
another MOOC! I promised myself I wouldn’t take part.

Having participated in OpCo11 (the first German MOOC) I’m afraid this will MOOC will also expose me to fascinating content and perspectives toward it, will lead to interesting contacts, wanting to meet up with people, share ideas, start projects… And that’s the last I can do with right now.

But here I am. Pulled into it by the community I found/created/got in the context of the German MOOC. I guess you cannot put off lifelong learing, can you?

So why am I here – against all odds:

  • #change11 seems to provide content in a field I’m intersted in – and most of all: ways of participation and communication – and as I believe in participating in terms of writing, discussing, trying out and sharing experience as my way of learning – this might be a place for me.
  • I’m still out for forward-looking and workable ideas regarding moderated e-learning activities and settings.
  • Looking for exchange: Hoping to find a way of reflection and inspiration that’s fun at the same time.
  • Consolidating and maybe even extending my e-learning-network – by participating as well as by finding interesting bits and pieces to share with non-MOOCs.

What moves me to start with:
Is there a critical mass to a MOOC?

A general one – and an individual one.

How many contributers and contributions can a community deal with/can I deal with – without the individual pick and choose becoming mere arbitrariness? And would then provide no more of a preselection than – let’s say: a search enginge?

I’m curious to watch and try
spend time – and ask why…;-)


Categories: general Tags: , ,
  1. 2011/09/18 at 5:01 PM

    Hi Jasmin,

    interesting question and in fact I asked myself a similar question when earlier this year I entered #opco11 while being involved in a moderated e-learning course (one which you yourself know pretty well 😉 )at the same time.

    Maybe the critical mass of a MOOC depends on what you wanna get out of it. If, like I did in #opco11, you are just in it out of curiosity, size is probably not that much of a factor. As long as you have dedicated learners in the course, a MOOC should run smoothly – and fortunately, this seems to be the kind of people attracted by the MOOC format, whereas moderated e-learning, especially in institutional and business settings, seems to cater even those unwilling to learn.

    If you approach a MOOC with a specific learning target, it may indeed have a critical mass, but one that is hard to define by numbers.

    Say I’m interested in literacy management and online writing education and hope to find some inpiration in #change11. The critical mass for me is >0 – not of participants in general but of such participants that provide me with valuable input adequate for my learning objectives.

    So if in #change11 I meet just one literacy manager or university writing center colleague who I fruitfully get in touch with, the critical mass for me has been achieved.

    The CM, I guess, depends on more than just numerical size. It also depends on the frequency and quality of exchange – probably even more than on the sheer number.

  2. 2011/09/20 at 10:11 PM

    It’s interesting that there was a German language MOOC! The topic of MOOCs and language has been pretty interesting to me, and something I wish to explore more of.

    I think that MOOCs do need to have a critical mass in order to be successful. I think that people may be overwhelmed by the amounts of information that they are confronted with, but the nice thing about MOOCs is that the information remains long past the MOOCs ending date, so you could go back and have “left overs” after the main course is over 🙂

  3. 2011/09/21 at 7:14 AM

    Jasmin, as to your question about critical mass, my thought is that the connections one forms within a MOOC are more important than the overall mass of the MOOC. But then, it sounds like you have already reached critical mass with your own community, since they have dragged you, kicking and screaming in protest, into Change11 🙂

  4. 2011/09/21 at 11:12 AM

    I liked your question “is there a critical mass” very much, because it implies much more than just whom we are getting in touch with and if we do have time for it.
    It also implies what the random choices/pick means for the outcome. It is somehow an spiritual approach: The knowledge that your are suppose to get, will reach you – somehow…

  5. 2011/09/21 at 12:01 PM

    Dear Lone, Jim, Apostolos and Daniel,

    thanks for picking up the thought of critical mass and sharing your thoughts.

    Interesting to consider that the “critical mass” might not only focus on the MOOC as a (un-) conference but also – or mainly? – on the participant: Maybe the Course runs smoothly, as Daniel says – but I don’t manage to take part or get anything out of it.

    Or as Jim alludes to: You can only cope with a certain amount of people in your personal active network – no matter what the MOOC offers… I hope I still have capacity – I start sensing a very open, friendly and straight forward-“community” or at last group in this MOOC.

    In moderated online forums I experienced a workable number of active participants, that contribute on a regular basis is between 5 and 10. When you start with more than 10, usually some participants reduce their engagement or drop out – until the number of about 10 is reached again.

    And what I neglected so far: critical mass can also relate to a minimum number of participants/posstings/activities – not only a maximum – as I mainly had in mind – together with Apostolols I guess. Apostolos: Will we ever read the “left overs” – or will we take our bookmarks and move to the next MOOC or other bits of life, never being able to catch up 😉

    May be you’re right, Lone and we need some “spiritual help” 😉 or a relaxed view on MOOCs – understanding it as world of information and interaction in which we can work or go for a walk or meet interesting people to chat with, talk to, discuss with.

    In real life I like this arrangement 😉
    Thank you for crossing paths! Jasmin

  6. 2011/09/21 at 6:44 PM

    lol, some left overs go in the trash, that is for sure 🙂
    Other left overs, like canned food that doesn’t go bad, can remain in our emails for that time of need 🙂
    As an example, this is my 5th MOOC. Every MOOC that has used gRSShopper, or some other mechanism that automatically sent posts to my email means that I can use the power of GMail to search for things 🙂 I know that MobiMOOC had a lot of citations and sources mentioned. When I want to look something up with regard to mLearning, I do a quick search in my email just in case there is something there – of course results do vary: sometimes I get what I want, other time not (and some times I am surprised to find something I forgot about!)

  7. 2011/09/23 at 4:07 AM

    Hello Jasmin,

    Great topic and I like the reference to critical mass. Massiveness does seem vital to MOOCs as if there was a point based on sheer numbers that transforms our perceptions. Or maybe it’s a shift in identity? This isn’t my first MOOC either and in the past I’ve (unconsciously I think) latched onto train of discussion with a small group of participants to stay within a comfort zone. A zone of manageable-distraction where my attention isn’t blown completely off balance by the overwhelming–ness of so much activity at the centre of the MOOC.

    *increases the chance for discovering interests we didn’t know we had

    *disarms strategies we build to protect ourselves from unfamiliar / uncomfortable encounters

    *as Lone suggests it brings some of the spiritual openness of being witness to something bigger than we can contain–like the too high ceilings of a cathedral or to wide to absorb view of an ocean it puts us in different state of mind.

    Partly due to other commitments I’m taking this MOOC as if the circus was spending the winter next door and I could pop my head in as it suited me. Or that’s what I’m telling myself anyway. It sounds silly to be so close to so many great conversations and pretend to a detachment that likely won’t last. Massiveness creates gravity too–its pull is hard to resist.


    • 2011/09/23 at 9:58 PM

      and it’s also hard to resist to comment on your lyrical comment, too 🙂
      (Actually I also promissed myself not to jump on every comment.)

      Thank you Scott,
      I think we share the share the same cathedrals, oceans and circus next door. Don’t know how you conceived these comparisons – but found that’s exactely the feeling I have toward MOOCs.

      And I’ll be looking for an opportunity to use the expression “comfortzone” 😉
      But that won’t be before October as I’m off for a short holiday now – don’t know if my offline life will let me give in the temptation to visit the circus…

      See you – when the tigers get in – latest, ok? Jasmin

  8. 2011/09/25 at 1:20 AM


    Have a good holiday. Does a person visit tigers before or after they’ve been fed?


    • 2011/10/05 at 8:43 PM

      Hi Scott,
      Back again. When visiting the tigers? Depends not only ont he tigers’ appetite but also on your appetite of life, I suppose 😉
      I will jump into change11 next week again (a lot of tigers to be fed elsewhere at the moment)… Cheers!

  1. No trackbacks yet.

looking forward to your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s