How to succeed at Mooc-ing without really trying

Heard about MOOCs but far too busy doing more interesting things to sign up to one? Not sure if they’re for you?  Feeling pressure to be part of the “mooc crowd”? Keep signing up for MOOCs but keep getting that cba (can’t be a****) feeling after the first week? Fear not, here’s a handy list of tips to ensure you too can get maximum impact, increase your twitter followers, and look like you are at the heart of the next Mooc that takes your fancy.

The quickest way to get noticed in MOOCs is via twitter, so start using the course hashtag as early as possible. Post some random musings (the more bizarre the better), the week before the official start date. The first week will be filled with “hello I’ve just signed up for xxx” – go for something more eye catching. With 6 million participants on a course you want to make sure you stand out from the crowd and most importantly get retweeted. If you don’t think you’re going to get @StephenFry or @PeteCashmore to retweet posts, fear not there are other strategies.

Only sign up for MOOCs where you know someone who is part of the course team.  @ them at every opportunity (with the hastag of course). They’re bound to reply and retweet at least some of your messages. Remember in the first week in particular the people running the course  are desperate to show signs of activity and engagement. 

Alternatively start a tweet off (my polite description for a fight) with the official course twitter account. @ them slightly left field questions that are impossible to answer in 140 characters, but which they can’t be seen to not to answer. Reply to everything with more obtuse comments. Undoubtedly a couple of your followers will pitch in too creating the impression of even more noise engagement.

Dazzle people with analytics. This is getting slightly tricker now more people know about @mhawskey’s twitter archive and tags explorer which have been proven to make even grown Mooc-ers cry:-) But try and get a graph/diagram from somewhere. Sign up for bottlenose and take a screen grab of their sonar view of the course hashtag. Will distract people for days . . .

If you can’t dazzle with analytics, get someone else to.  Set up a challenge that is just too tempting for @psychemedia not to have a go at.  

Follow these simple techniques and by the end of the first week you will have been featured enough to be seen as in integral part of the course, and can go and back to doing something more interesting instead.

More advanced strategies including FB and  google+ to follow.

27 thoughts on “How to succeed at Mooc-ing without really trying”

  1. So that’s what everyone was up to these past few weeks! It feels like watching a mass delusion sometimes that something is really happening here, man, yeah, except I can’t really see what it all is. Like people telling you about a really cool party that you can crash if you want, man, everybody’s welcome, man, except they’re all off in the bedroom taking some substance that is clearly a bonding experience but is really boring to watch. 4life, man. Yeah.

  2. Actually just thinking I should have patented my techniques and written an open but pay to download book – could have make a fortune- darn another business opportunity missed

  3. Great post Sheila. #edcmooc better watch out for a barrage of tweets from me on the utopian and dystopian visions of e-learning, it’s in the bag 🙂

  4. My pleasure Cris – yes I was thinking about an open available but pay to download book might just do the trick 😉

  5. Thank you so much Sheila – I now realise, I did this ‘right’ at first (was straight in there on twitter before the MOOC really even started) but since then I have been too busy even to put in the 3 hours p.w. I originally committed, and just read the daily email from the organisers and feel even more overwhelmed by it all…!

  6. well a mooc is more about taking control yourself so even just reading the daily summary is something. It is difficult to find time to participate and the “massiveness” can be overwhelming. It’s also very easy to be distracted, which is usually my problem

  7. Made me chuckle but when I see the institutional weight being used to crush the MOOC idea I think it could be a concept worth defending, however imperfect at the moment.

    I think the HE approach to learning desperately needs a shake up and its current state of aggresive defensiveness might be an indication that MOOCs are threatening something.

  8. Hi Jim
    Thanks for the comment. This was written from a student perspective, and more a reflection of the sheer amount of activity (or apparent activity in some cases) in MOOCs. I think there are elements of MOOCs that could be incredibly powerful, however I think we are still at the experimental stage. Also from a teaching point of view – trying to moderate any massive online activity is challenging and so if institutions are going to be serious about MOOCs they need to consider the workload for staff involved too. Scaling practice and assessment is huge challenge.

  9. Good question Paul, you may have realised that blogging is quite a key strategy too. Trick is to write about something that you are interested in, and that might not necessarily be the particular mooc you are writing about Chin stroking in blogs is a great tactic:-) but yes that does take a bit more time.

  10. I think this blog qualifies you for the prevarication alt-badge, Sheila. Possibly upgrade to the cheeky alt-badge if you can do it next week too. 🙂

  11. Now that’s a dangerous challenge Peter but I may just take you up on it 🙂 I have been doing my fair share of “serious” blogs too but I do think a wee bit of humour helps every learning situation.

  12. Hey Sheila,
    This is brilliant – thanks 🙂 Much needed laugh!
    From experience, baking a cake for a mooc works well too – make sure to share a pic via twitter…

  13. Excellent post Sheila.
    Love it, and although I dont have the capacity for obtuse and obscure posts on twitter, I will certainly give it a go.
    Certainly the FB group is already overwhelming in sheer size and engagement.
    But all in the name of learning, fun and student torture in one form or another.:)
    Im sure you can still apply Creative Commons patent to your ideas 😉

  14. Thanks for the comment. I think we all have the capacity for obtuse and obscure tweets:-) Yes must patent this soon already noticed a bottlenose sonar of the google hangout yesterday . . .

  15. Thanks for this, Sheila, I had been feeling a touch overwhelmed by all the activity (actually I just mistyped ‘activity’ and auto correct replaced it with ‘civility’ which is quite funny) before the course even started! Having a somewhat overwhelming non cyber life at present, I felt doomed. Luckily, I also met two other people in ‘real life’ at an adult ed event who are also doing the course and hadn’t even known about all the activity, having been too busy to check their emails. This cheered me up instantly and we have made a vow of support, which I hope will involve coffee and cake (even if virtual – I too know how to get lost in the cupcake division of cyberspace. Yikes, I have even been known to make a detour into Funny Cats Land). Anyhoo, look forward to some obscure obfuscations from you in the coming weeks.

  16. Hi Wendy

    Thanks for commenting – glad you too use the power of cake to get you through things:-) auto correct is my nemesis too. Doing my best to keep up the obsfucations

  17. Brilliant, very reassuring that it’s not just me struggling with trying to have a life plus take part. I remember being told that one of the benefits of the bricks and mortar approach for many was that it enabled you to escape your other commitments for a few hours a week.

  18. Hi Clifton
    Glad you liked the post. Yes, physically going somewhere does have its advantages 🙂


  19. Irony is, you will have no doubt climbed the HE Blogger charts signifciantly what number are you now ?

    MOOC’s will eat themselves !

  20. Pardon the intrusion, I very much feel this conversation is not intended for people like me, so I’m completely failing to see the funny side.

    And by people like me let me clarify – with a lifelong love of learning in all it’s diverse forms, financially crushed by the global farce that’s been the world economy for the last five years, and so no longer able to invest in even the simplest educational tools (books!) and for whom the cost of online learning from traditional third level institutions is laughably out of reach – and trust me I’ve tried all the providers and all the funding options, short of streetwalking.

    By contrast to people like you, and for you to have any grasp of my perception of people like you, you’ll need to know the route that led me here. Trawling in the hope of finding some good news on the educational front, I stumble across a post regarding strategic planning, which includes correspondence with Sheila & David K of JISC, which is touted as so insightful and relevant that it must be shared with all.

    It opened well, though it took on a puzzling tone, and having read it through, I went back to follow some of the links – which brought me here. Penny drops, light dawns. For insight read cynicism, for relevant read shared stance.

    I have to admit to being somewhat dismayed that those who purport to be professionals in the field of the advancement of education across new boundaries, feel it appropriate to publicly snigger and deride an approach still in its infancy. I can only be supremely grateful that such naysayers didn’t manage to deter Gutenberg when he was working out the kinks on his press, or that first nameless individual who came up with the bright if somewhat bizarre idea of turning animal skins into writing surfaces – how you’d have enjoyed making a mockery of that!

    But forgive me because it’s apparent that the root of the hilarity is that (God forbid!) if the MOOC approach actually takes root and flourishes, it strikes fear into your very heart doesn’t it? Because where would that leave the exorbitant DVLE offerings that currently fund your smug elitism? Without the ample coin that corporations, colleges and governments currently pay for your ‘insight’ I doubt you’d find it so humorous. Not that I think you have any real cause for fear, since there will always be those who can afford to pay and will do, if only to prove their ability to do so sets them above the masses.

    How reassuring to know that the more things change, the more they really fundamentally stay the same.

    As an aside, it might interest you to know that many people who engage in the MOOC courses you disdain, have no great interest in the constant sludge of social media. Of those that I’ve taken, twitter has been mentioned once and facebook not at all – for which I confess I am profoundly grateful, being no particular advocate of either. Perhaps if you focused on the content rather than the social whirl, even someone as exceptionally well educated as you purport to be, might actually learn something.

    In a traditional classroom setting, you’d be the wittering gossip who’s more interested in discussing what to wear to the rave tonight than paying any attention to the physics problem the teacher is describing – derailing the learning experience for others by forcing the teacher to deal with your insubordination. But thankfully we’re not in that setting, which is why a teacher with thousands of interested students wastes no time on your snidery, you’re not even a blip on their radar.

    I was truly heartened to discover MOOCs not just for the increasing range of courses on offer, but also, having dipped my toe, for the depth and quality of the content.

    I recognise that nothing I say is likely to have any effect on your mindset, but my purpose is writing is simply to make you aware that there is another point of view, and that there are many people (outside of your cosy world) who benefit from MOOCs in more ways than are dreamt of in your philosphy.

    MOOCs may not last forever, what does? But while they’re here, allow those of us without the luxuries of time or money to access traditional education to relish the freedom to learn without your scorn.

  21. Hi Bel

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. Firstly this post was written with my tongue very firmly in my cheek and yes it does reflect the “cosy” working world which I am all to aware I am fortunate to be part of.

    Far from distaining MOOCs, I’m embracing them and the fantastic opportunity they are giving me and thousands of others. I hope that this is apparent in my other posts about my experiences. I make no claim to be particularly well educated – mainly because I am all to aware that I am not. So I welcome your comments as a counter point to my post and other comments.

    I do have concerns that some MOOCs are aimed at “people like me” and aren’t addressing some of the bigger challenges in education our societies faces which need as much investment in face to face teaching as in content development. But they are being seen as “the answer” to what many call our broken education systems.

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