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Hospitality: a promising philosophy for designing online courses & fostering critical digital literacies #moocmooc

In addition to POT Cert, I’ve enrolled on a few other MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). The first of which, entitled MOOC MOOC, takes a look at the phenomenon of MOOCs themselves…, naturally.

And it was here, within the customary introduction stage of the course a reference by Kate Bowles @KateMfD  to “hospitable pedagogy” immediately caught my eye. The reason being that only last week I read “Critical Digital Literacies as Social Praxis” where, in the chapter by Anna Smith and Glynda Hull, I came across the concept of hospitality as an aspect of Cosmopolitanism (p.63-66).

On first encounter, the notion of hospitality really resonated with me (see why), and it did so again when it emerged in a #moocmooc Twitter chat as an associated concept of Internationalism. Ironically though, I missed the chat itself because of what might be considered the inhospitable pedagogical design of the MOOC MOOC course (time-zone grief!!).

Get a snapshot in Storify.

Hospitality forms a crucial part of cosmopolitan philosophy as it foregrounds our relationships with guests, outsiders, foreigners and others, and as such is significant for online participants in a global and digital age. As Kate points out, every online host is sometime a guest and every guest can be a host somewhere too. Furthermore, there are increasing opportunities for people of diverse ages, nationalities and socio-economic positions to engage with new kinds of texts in the digital sphere and make comment on social issues, provide entertainment, produce news or engage in learning activities. Increasing reciprocity between authors and readers and the fact that texts are virally distributed through the web and across networks gives increased possibilities to encounter “distant, unknown, imagined others” (p.64).

In a media sense, hospitality translates to an obligation to listen, which in turn translates to thoughtful openness towards pluralist meanings and to the inhibition of  prior assumptions. Consequently, in order to anticipate and accommodate not just issues of global housekeeping but also diverse cultural interpretations we must adopt not only new creative learning designs but new dispositions too, cosmopolitan practice in fact.

That’s what I’ve learned from my MOOC MOOC experience. Plus, I’m coming to think that it’s not so much the massiveness of the MOOC that’s important just as long as it’s open and online, and that a community may be preferable to a course. That’s why I’ll continue to call by and say “hello” to the good folks of the Hybrid Pedagogy community from time to time.


Smith A. and Hull G. Critical literacies and social media: fostering ethical engagement with global youth. In: Avila, JA and Pandya JZ eds. (2012)  Critical Digital Literacies as Social Praxis, Peter Lang Publishing, New York

Published inDigital LiteraciesUncategorized


  1. Reblogged this on MOOC Madness and commented:
    interesting & a good commentary but as with much academic output, wordy. Fewer tweets ‘n words, more pics, links, video clips would improve this digital presentation

    Until I get around to blogging my own #moocmooc reflection (still pondering & digesting), I’ll be a digital magpie, flying over the blogospere and twitiverse, carrying off (reblogging) bright shiny bits to my madness nest. Here’s a choice bit of glitter, more than just cyber bling

    Kate’s and Helen’s “hospitality” and “internationalism” exchange on Twitter crystalized a still unverbalized, miasm-like unease that had been hovering over my field of impressions. Perhaps MOOC ratings should include hospitality ~ not a directory of courses but a Guide Michelin.

    Anyone who has been around a few moocs, can’t help noticing that some are more hospitable than others, cyber Cheers, even if everybody doesn’t know your name. More global content in readings, acknowledging and celebrating demographics, accommodating participants due north and south and across pond and a cosmopolitan atmosphere would make them less provincial and more accommodating to guests not part of US (mostly higher) education cyber circles. Perhaps looking at the ones we’ve found most congenial, where we’ve enjoyed our sojourns, and what they have in common would be the place to start. My personal list would include POTcert, Carol Yeager’s CMC11, Vance Steven’s Multiliteracies (and EVO in general), a fistful of cmoocs and even an independent off-forum FB group for an xmooc.

  2. Wonderful post which I’ll reference over at the connectivist facebook page if you don’t mind:-) Being involved in so many moocs and other classes is becoming a bit like spinning too fast so I’ll ask if if you are in the OLDs MOOC or the EVO Mentoring or the classes? If not I’ll reference you there too.

    Aside from the cheesy namedropping I really liked this post and thank you pulling something living out of the MOOC MOOC wreckage that happened in my mind. I’ll send this on to my wife too who just started her first MOOC and was mentioning how inhospitable the environment was.

    Thanks Helen!

  3. Thanks Vanessa and Scott for dropping by and for taking the time to not only to read my post but to add a comment too. I have to say that I’ve not been around many MOOCs before, just POT Cert really, but the idea of a Michelin Guide for MOOCs that indicate the type of “hospitality” participants might expect seems like a pretty neat idea to me.

    FYI Scott, I’ve just started over in OLDS MOOC.

  4. See you at OLDS MOOC. I’d tell you how to find me but I’m not sure myself:-) Think our cloudscape “The PEERs – p2p learning online” Going to be difficult to finish POTCERT but the course is exactly what our college needs to faculty online and that’s important to our students. Hospitality is certainly another useful thing to incorporate into my operational skills. Most of our encounters with teachers coming into our department are not happy and some of this MIGHT be our conditioned response to their petulant behaviour 🙂 I suppose we could be nice if we practice?

  5. Helen ~ I shared your post with Laura Gibbs, who teaches Latin and Classics online at/for the University of OK and is in a different. We’d noticed that gap too so I thought she’d appreciate it…and she did. Said that was critical to getting a good start with an online class even if she sometimes feels like a Wal-Mart greeter but that it pays off in… part of it is making sure your guests know where to find everything.

    A mooc hospitality guide reviewer would probably, like a Michelin reviewer, need to be anonymous.

    Scott, how does the EVO Mentoring seem? EVO is a hospitable bunch. The Webheads session is a good place to direct people for basics and tech refreshers. ESL oriented (but not limited to higher ed) so I figure composition, writing, languages, etc are close enough.

    I looked in on and noticed you in a moocmooc collaborative writing session but nowhere else. So much there just did not feel right. I never quite got my bearings or a sense of settling in either. Not much connection making either., but a few Not Cheers but one of those bars where nobody knows your name or asks. I was happy to see some whose blogs I follow ~ Kate Bowles (Music for Deck Chairs) in particular.

    • Been thinking about hospitality and wondered if their might be room for a form of “tough” hospitality we could use in our office? Like “put back the ‘distance’ in Distance Learning and piss off out of our office and CALL IT with your problems!” This has been a hard week and nice isn’t in me.

      Mentoring is fine but I keep getting distracted by the portfolio course and OLDSMOOC. Have signed up for a peer to peer project at OLDS which fits a bit with mentoring and I can also use it as an ongoing journal on life in college. The complexities of dealing with people are endlessly fascinating and I have to agree the Mentoring crowd are calming me down. But will it last?

      Is there a way to build hospitality into online courses? We were told to edit out the personal in a series of courses but aside from our students, a few teachers and two of us in our office, no other staff at any level has taken online courses and really should cork it with their comments. So maybe I should ask: how can we sneak hospitality into our courses?

  6. Yes, the concept’s definitely got a lot going for it, I’m certain. Apparently the concept of hospitality has long been part of the philosophy of cosmopolitanism (Kant & Derrida). What’s more, not only might it be used as a concept in designing online courses but also as a frame of mind to adopt when reading texts produced by people from other cultures or groups. According to Rizvi (2009) a cosmopolitan outlook can help to foster a “critical global imagination”. I’ll have to look into this.and explore it further.

    Scott and Vanessa, I’m glad my post struck a cord you, and with others too. Thanks for the feedback. Helen

  7. I really think about the reasons why you labeled this particular blog post, “Hospitality:
    a promising philosophy for designing online courses &
    fostering critical digital literacies #moocmooc « Learningcreep”.
    In any case I personally enjoyed the blog!Thanks for the post,Eunice

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