A few weeks ago, my colleague Jeff Merrell and I decided to participate in two different MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) related to education that are running at the same time. We have regular morning chats over coffee to catch up on what we are learning about the content in each course as well as the learning ecosystems being created. We tried this divide and conquer strategy last year in order to learn from each other and it worked quite well; in 2013 Jeff participated in #etmooc (Educational Technology and Media) and I participated in #edcmooc (E-Learning and Digital Cultures). I found it fascinating to watch the interaction between two MOOCs that cover related topics and take place at the same time.
This winter Jeff is participating in Dave Cormier‘s #rhizo14 Rhizomatic Learning – The community is the curriculum MOOC and I’m in the #FutureEd History and Future (Mostly) of Higher Education Coursera MOOC being facilitated by Cathy Davidson.
Participating in #edcmooc last year was intense to say the least. I learned some things along the way about how to filter out some of the online noise so I could focus on content that supported my own learning goals and helped me develop my personal learning network. As I started exploring the #FutureEd Coursera discussion forums this week I came across a forum about Twitter that reminded me of how overwhelmed I was last year. One of the participants posted the following comment about Twitter:
Don’t you find the word limit a bit of a struggle? And how quickly does your tweet disappear in the flood of other tweets? It is a challenge to even read all the posts coming in.
In the hopes that some fellow MOOCers might more easily join in on the Twitter conversation, I share below how I have set myself up to wade through the flood of #FutureEd, #rhizo14 and #moocmooc tweets to find the treasures that can be uncovered.
How do you drink from the social media firehose? Share your practices in the comments.
Find Your Fellow Learners
My brain cannot wrap itself around the massive part of MOOCs so I almost immediately attempt to connect with a few people online who are in the class and are active in the spaces that I use on a regular basis. I can’t be everywhere so why not find people who I am likely to bump into more easily with my existing online practices? Before the class began, I started following the #FutureEd hashtag on Twitter in order to create a public Twitter list of people who are using the #FutureEd hashtag.
- Starts to create a community of learners who can more easily connect with each other during and after the course
- Allows me to follow the tweets from people on the list in a social media management tool called Hootsuite (see below)
When I add people to this #FutureEd Twitter List they get notified that they have been added and they can subscribe to the list and decide whether they want to follow other #FutureEd participants on the list. I have found that focusing on the human element while participating in a MOOC is what motivates me to stay involved — see My Human Element in the EDCMOOC.
In addition to finding fellow learners on Twitter, I also found them in Google+ and created a #FutureEd Google+ Circle for myself. Check out what is being shared on Google+ about #FutureEd. There are some people who prefer Google+ and I don’t want to miss out on what they are sharing.
The Power of Hootsuite: Create Filters to Slow Twitter Down
HootSuite is a social media management tool that allows you to sift through the the onslaught of information that bombards you when you try to learn via social media. What follows is an explanation of how and why I will be using this tool to follow the #rhizo14, #FutureEd and #moocmooc tweets. I’m sure there are other similar tools out there as well – share in the comments!
I find that setting up Search streams in HootSuite helps me quickly scan through tweets that might be of interest based on particular hashtags. Note that you can use OR searching to have one stream bring back tweets from different hashtags that you want to group together in some way. I can’t imagine using Twitter without a tool like HootSuite. I do not monitor Twitter on a regular basis so want to be able to see older tweets that I would miss if I only look at my real-time stream.
Another great feature of HootSuite (and I swear they aren’t paying me to say this) is that you can create a stream that follows a particular Twitter list. So, for example, I have a HootSuite stream that is showing me all of the tweets from people on the #FutureEd Twitter list I created.
Q: Why would I want to do this in addition to following the #FutureEd hashtag in a stream?
A: Because I can learn so much more and further develop my PLN (personal learning network).
When I follow a list in HootSuite, I see all of the tweets from everyone who has been included in that list, not just the tweets that include the #FutureEd hashtag. I’m going to make an assumption that people who have signed up to participate in #FutureEd are a pretty interesting bunch (and this has proven true so far!) so I’d like to see what else they are sharing on Twitter, not just their #FutureEd tweets. And this is one of the benefits of building a personal learning network. I will likely learn something new from one of these tweets. I will be able to get a sense of who amongst this group of seminar participants I might want to connect with in other ways outside of the context of this particular online seminar.
NOTE: This is a remix of a previous blog post I wrote while participating in an open online seminar called Exploring Personal Learning Networks.