Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Right Mix

My response to Jon Dron, And so it ends...

Interesting reflections and I appreciate the comments and the participation.

It's easy enough technically to implement some sort of collaborative filtering or reputation management system, but the result would conflict with the objectives of the design of the MOOC.

To over-generalize, things that pull out one (best post, most reputable writer, etc) out of many are exactly the sort of things I wish to avoid. I think you sense this - you write "A single view of any course is always going to be a compromise that suits some and not others" - but my response is to attempt to avoid the single view.

This makes the parcelling or highlighting problem an order of magnitude more difficult. Basically, it amounts to wanting a way to do it for each participant, but also to provide each participant maximal choice, and a reasonable but not excessive amount of homophily.

I think a tag system is an excellent alternative, but simple keyword tagging is clumsy and ineffective - it depends far too much on what you are calling soft technologies (and specifically, the act of applying the tag) and means the only resources available are self-selected materials.

I do have a 'topics' system that preserves the best of tags but greatly automates the process, but I've been frustrated by some technical difficulties. It requires a lot of caching, and my cache system has its issues (if comments haven't been appearing when you make them on posts, it's because I'm still trying to make the topic system work).

I don't think a parcelling system will be by itself sufficient, however. I'm not even sure it's necessary. I think that the problem of participation lies elsewhere. Because we could send a post with only a small number of resources to people, which would be easily manageable, and participation would still decrease.

That's why, in my talk on engagement this week, I tried to explore the various things that would cause people to commit to doing things. I don't think any of the formulae are quite right yet. And nothing will be perfect - people take these courses in their spare time, which means they may stop for any reason at any time.

I don't think the answer will be a _simple_ thing, like badges, levels, competition, rewards, etc. - I expect it means getting the basic design (open, connected, interactive) right, plus providing focus (attractors, parcelation, personalization), and then stimulating actions (signs and symbols, loyalty, campaigns, progress indicators, etc).

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