Wednesday, March 7, 2012

MOOCs, the CYNEFIN framework and understanding the “basics”.

In a recent post Dave Cormiere proposed that the CYNEFIN framework as developed by Dave Snowden could help describing rhizomatic learning (MOOCs). Broadly CYNEFIN offers 5 “categories” for separating kinds of decisions that can be made: simple issues, complicated issues, complex issues, chaotic issues and disorder.

In this post I would like to contribute some thoughts to the subject and see if I can get some feedback from those in LAK12 and change11, so as to understand better the ideas proposed.

In the post Dave states:

  1. “If you are looking for ‘best practices’ in a given domain, the MOOC is a fantastically inefficient way of acquiring them”. 
  2.  “If you are looking for ‘good practices’ a MOOC is probably a better option than for simple practices, but it’s still not exactly designed for that.”
  3. “If you are looking for a ‘chaotic experience’ MOOCs are probably a little tied tight for you.”
  4. “The complex domain is where the MOOC really shines. If you want to try things, see how it goes, and build from that response, a MOOC is just the ecosystem you need”.
As I understand 1 and 2 refer to “what we learn” (best/good practices in a certain domain) while 3 and 4 on “how we learn”.

All 4 statements are correct when applied, for example, to MOOCs like CCK12, EduMOOC, Change11, LAK12. No learner in these MOOCs was looking for best/good practices.

Counter example:

MobiMOOC (2011) was a very successful MOOC on mobile learning, definitely rhizozomic, that filled all requirements spelled out in the literature for being a MOOC (educause (2010) paper by Cormiere and Siemens). But:
  • If you were looking to learn on “best practices” in mobile learning this was the place.
  •  “Good practices” were also part of the learning space. Not in one expert, but in many distributed through the network. Mentorship was spread through the web.

MobiMOOC, being a MOOC, satisfied points 3 and 4.

A few thoughts on the question on understanding the “basics”

In his post Dave states: By basic here i mean ‘turn on the computer’ rather than define a computer”

I agree and here are some my thoughts:
  • MOOCs are not suited for teaching/learning efficiently “the basics” in any domain.
  • It’s fundamental for learners in a MOOC to have a certain degree of preparation. If someone participates as a lurker and is unprepared he will not understand. If someone wants to be an active participant he can contribute nothing. The learners are nodes of the network and must contribute in part with their knowledge.
  • The 101 running course in Python programming of would be impossible to carry out in the MOOC format.
 Tag for #lak12 and #change11


  1. Hi Osvaldo,

    yes, the what we learn/how we learn distinction is the dominant narrative. I just don't think they can reasonably be separated. To me all for are 'what we learn and how we learn'.

  2. blog.