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Cloudbusting and camping: implications for learning design #oldsmooc

One of the MOOCs that I’ve signed up for is #OLDSMOOC. The focus of which is learning design. These are my thoughts on the  first week and some initial thoughts about learning design. Right off though, I have to say that I’ve no substantive idea of what learning design actually is; is it a fancy name for something that I do already when planning learning activities, is it something quite rigorous and scientific that I’ve hitherto not been exposed to, or is it something quite new altogether – a response to the way technology is impacting teaching and learning maybe.

Any how, my major observation from week 1 relates to the OLDSMOOC learning platform (of choice??), Cloudworks. Well, it doesn’t. The objective of the week was threefold: in an area called Dreambazaar outline your dream learning design proposal, review the assemblage of proposals and then through discussion and negotiation form small teams around the selected project, and beyond that form into study circles. All of which constitutes a big ask in any body’s book, but the process was severely hampered by the functionality of the Cloudworks platform. It was ill equipped for such a large scale, intense, nuanced and interpersonal activity. It was just impossible to figure out the platform and track down all the people that you wanted to talk to, so after considerable effort and not getting very far, I decided to park myself  under the cloud entitled “Digital Identity and Social Media” that had been started by Jane Challinor (@virtualleader) and likewise with the Digilit study circle cloud, again started by Jane Challinor (actual leader it would seem). I then pasted the links to these clouds into my Evernote account and proceeded to access Cloudworks  from there. The Daily digest, with its series of links, kept me on track with all the rest of the day’s happenings and, together with my home pasted links, was how I was able to penetrate Cloudworks, cloudbusting if you like. For me, this incident highlights a lot of the issues relating to closed platforms, begs the question as to why an open system, or one sympathetic to open applications wasn’t used (like Canvas), and what’s more, demonstrates the merits of a personal learning environment (PLE).

I suppose the reason I dislike Cloudworks so much is down to its lack of agility in supporting conversations, which in turn makes it feel sterile and inhospitable (a bit of a current theme with me). It’s just so hard to get a sense of people in there. For me, this experience confirms that eLearning technologies can no longer be considered as tools rather they’re sites of practice, places where people go to learn (Goodfellow & Lee, 2007). In my mind, the idea of  sites of practice somehow fits with the camping related conversation that sprang up on Twitter during the convergence session on Tuesday (“storified” here) and also links to not just personal learning environments (PLEs) but to many Web 2.0 pedagogies, none more so than rhizomatic learning, which partly triggered the camping conversation in the first place.

Learning intents
Learning intents

Returning to the the learning objectives of the week, I feel that I achieved those designed by the course team but I didn’t articulate any of my own. However, as the week unfolded, I decided that my goal was simply to hang on, because there’s no two ways about it, it was a difficult process to work your way through. Hopefully, things will be more straight forward from now on as I’ve emerged from week 1 with not just a fascinating project but a strong partner too. I’m looking forward to finding a learning design solution to Jane Challinor’s call of “let’s get digital”.

Image source:


Goodfellow, R. and Lea, M. R., (2007) Challenging e-learning in the university : a literacies perspective. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.

Published inLearning Design


  1. The serendipitous nature of connected learning has quickly led me to a like minded learner. Many thanks for considering my personal detour part of your learning experience in this MOOC. Our online identity should reflect our personality, this doesn’t mean compromising our privacy. I wonder, is that an ingredient in the learning design process? Hey, chatting to you here seems like a good place to start with my reflective post for Wk 1…off to do that.

  2. Penny, I like your reference that “our online identity should reflect our personality, this doesn’t mean compromising our privacy”. Considering that I have opted for a project in the area of “Digital Identity and Social Media”, I’m sure we’ll be chatting about this again.

  3. Cloudworks forces an asynchronous conversation while other platforms permit something that can be close to synchronous. My experience of three years as a post graduate on the OU MAODE … and before that a decade in e-learning, that messaging, and Twitter and any platform where you can express thoughts in your own time, but have a response soon after is far better than emptying the contents of your head onto the bird table and waiting for others to come and pick at it … or not. I found in Cloudworks, using it a year ago, that I might place all kinds of ‘gems’ about the place and get no response. Looking at the views and comments on e-learning gurus such as Grainne Conole I concluded that far from being clouds (wishful thinking) we were in a desert bereft of precipitation. Give me a jungle any day.

    • Hi Jonathan. It’s been a while since the start of OLDSMOOC and I thought I would come back and thank you for this comment. I participated fully in the course but one of the biggest frustrations continued to be the Cloudworks platform. It’s just impossible to locate and connect with people in there. Now that the course has finished I’m finding people “coming out of the woodwork” so to speak, people that have participated all along but who’ve been invisible. Not that they haven’t blogged or commented. It’s just that it’s not been possible to detect them. My final review is on this theme so I include the link. I’d be interested to hear how you got on. Helen

      • It has been an interesting journey and I would have stayed the course as an active participant had ‘our’ project not fizzled out in week 5 or 6. By then the one or two who had taken a sniff at my own projects were elsewhere and I was fully immersed in the Open University postgraduate Module H809 Practice-based research in e-learning. I have just learnt that I have been awarded a Masters in Open & Distance Education too – three fascinating years with the Open University, all online, and something around £8,000. This focuses your attention. And the very tight parameters of the OU VLE, with tutor groups of 16 or less people, in a cohort or 60 or so. You get to know people. This is what a MOOC needs – you get to know people on the journey and commit to them as well as the project. I kept missing the Tuesday Google Hangouts – one of these might have bound me to some other people and I could have found a way to stay in. However, I did start to question my interest in learning design of this ilk a) I come from corporate learning & development and b) I am increasingly interested in doctoral research.

  4. […] Already by week 2 of this course I’d developed a curiosity regarding instructional design, largely because I was unfamiliar with the term. Although Scott Johnson and Jim Julius explained the role of an instructional designer I was still unclear about the whole notion, probably due in a large part to the fact that I’d never actually met anyone who was an instructional designer. Even in January, when I went on to sign up for OLDSMOOC, an open online course in learning design, I still had no firm idea what it entailed, commenting: […]

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