Exploring rhizomatic learning



This week I have been reviewing and learning about Dave Cormier’s rhizomatic learning.

My notes on Dave’s video are below – from this I have answered the following questions:

  1. Were you convinced by rhizomatic learning as an approach?

    Cormier’s first assertion that the ‘best teaching prepares people for dealing with uncertainty’ had some resonance in that the world is increasingly uncertain and that learners need to be able to negotiate this. I enjoyed Cormier’s heat metaphor and the question posed around ‘what are we teaching?’ i.e. that fire burns, that you should listen when people tell you something (don’t touch the fire) or that you might want to be aware of and check for hot things. This brought the concept of teaching to prepare for uncertainty to life, however I am troubled by the assertion that this preparation is ‘the best teaching’    I appreciate the use of the rhizome metaphor and can see the relevance to how people learn of an organism that can map in any direction, is not neat and tidy and grows and spreads via experimentation regardless of breakage and I can see how the learner taking responsibility for their own learning, via a MOOC for example, may exemplify this.
  2. Could you imagine implementing rhizomatic learning?

    Currently, probably not. I can see the relevance of rhizomatic learning in some contexts but see the challenge around being able to assess and measure learning for formal purposes e.g. professional qualifications as a major blocker to rhizomatic learning being adopted as a mainstream approach. Cormier’s assertion that effort, engagement and connection should be measured and that we should stop measuring learning as this is impossible to do is certainly food for thought given that organisational learning consultants are consistently asked to demonstrate ROI (return on investment) for their ‘learning solutions’. Even this language implies a focus on ‘fixing a problem by giving a learner something to learn’!
  3. How might rhizomatic learning differ from current approaches?

    With an emphasis on the community being the curriculum and learners taking responsibility for their own and their peers learning, rhizomatic learning has similarities with how we are seeing MOOC pedagogy developing. For example, FutureLearn relies on community discussion and debate and certainly some of the learning is intended to be developed in the forums and therefore within the community. However, the content is structured and is still ‘led’ by an instructor. The curriculum is very structured over a fixed timetable with freedom to move at the learners own pace but there is no student development of the curriculum.
  4. What issues would arise in implementing rhizomatic learning?

    My context: Organisational learning and development
  • Creating a space for a community
  • Lack of structure and freedom of the learner – barrier to meeting statutory training requirements as laid down by the governing bodies of the industries and the UK government
  • In a busy world, where learning is seen as another ‘task’ on the list, it is possible learners will take ownership for their own learning but unlikely they will take ownership for others’ learning
  • From an educator’s perspective requires thought and skill to set up the type of questions and activities that move scenarios from the simple to the complex.
  • Creating space for experimentation and learners in the workplace feeling safe to experiment rather than produce their completed and final work.
  • Culture change: the need to prove ROI currently focuses attention on learning outcomes/objectives and what learners are doing differently as a result of their taking part in a learning activity. There would be a need to refocus on and measure effort, engagement and connection. Culturally this is a significant mind shift

My (rough!) notes on the video

Rhizomatic Learning Dave Cormier activity 20



Cormier, D. (2010) ‘Community as curriculm and open learning’, Dave’s Educational Blog, 17 Jun [online]. Available at http://davecormier.com/ edblog/ 2010/ 06/ 17/ community-as-curriculum-and-open-learning/

Week 11 Activity 20, MA ODE


The role of abundance


This week involved exploring ‘a pedagogy of abundance’ Weller (2011)

Weller describes the following features of a pedagogy of abundance

  1. Content is free.
  2. Content is abundant
  3. Content is varied in its format (text, image, video etc)
  4. Sharing is easy
  5. Social based
  6. Connections are ‘light’’ – we make connections and build a network. These are easy to maintain as they don’t need one to one attention.
  7. Organisation is cheap – Clay Shirky (2008, 31) argues that the ‘cost’ of organising people has collapsed, which makes informal groupings more likely to occur and often more successful.
  8. Based on a generative system – affordances of the internet, specifically, unpredictability and freedom allow innovative developments
  9. User generated content emerges, ease of generation allows users to remix and develop content.

A key question to be answered in this exercise is:

“how do we best equip learners to make use of ‘abundance’?”

The following represents my reflections on this question

Search skills

The unregulated, unedited and unmonitored nature of the internet means anyone can publish anything. Developing search skills and understanding how to critically review sources is essential. The Michigan State University has published a list of resources to help evaluate online resources including websites http://fod.msu.edu/oir/assessing-online-resources

Knowledge of CC licensing

Ensure learners understand that not all content is free. Learners need to differentiate between free content and content that is subject to copyright, understanding Creative Commons licensing and how to apply it.

Knowledge of quality criteria

The ability to differentiate between high and poor quality resources is essential –knowledge of quality criteria such as that devised for Learner Generated Content by Perez- Matteo et al (2011) where a framework is laid out to assess content, format and process.

Online presence, confidence and being safe.

Learners need to be supported to develop their own online ‘voice’ and develop a presence in an online social space. If the pedagogy of abundance exists in the social space with light connections and is based on sharing and generating content then learners need to feel comfortable to share and put their work on display.  This also links to staying safe online and learners developing online boundaries.

Reuse and Remixing skills

Often resources are produced in a specific context and it may be difficult to remix and reuse in other contexts. Additionally, the lack of digital skills may prevent some learners engaging. Together these make it seem simpler to start from scratch or not to bother at all.


One last comment from me on motivation. All of the above makes the assumption that learners are sufficiently self-motivated to want to engage. There is probably more work to be done in explaining the ‘what’s in it for me?’ to the learner as currently a ‘pedagogy of abundance’ may seem overwhelming and just too much effort for too little a return.

Michigan State University. Assessing Online Resources (website) http://fod.msu.edu/oir/assessing-online-resources

Pérez-Mateo, M., Maina, M.F., Guitert, M., Romero, M., 2011. Learner Generated Content: Quality Criteria in online Collaborative Learning. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-learning 14.

Weller,M. (2011) ‘A pedagogy of abundance’, Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, vol.249,pp. 223-36. Available online at http://oro.open.ac.uk/28774/ (last accessed 15 April 2016)

My PLN (personal learning network)

This week I have been reflecting on my definition of a PLN (personal learning network). In the past I have looked at my virtual learning network which consisted in the main of the various social media tools and web-sites I use to support my life long learning.

My PLN is similar but with two significant differences – an emphasis on the people I share and learn with in both a virtual and physical space. This led me to define my PLN as……

” a virtual and physical network of people and social tools for sharing, learning and mutual support and growth”



H 817 Week 10 Activity 16

Is comparing MOOCs like comparing apples with pears?


Image:Dimitar Nikolov

A comparison of DS106 Digital Storytelling, University of Mary Washington and two FutureLearn MOOCs,  Understanding Modern Business and Organisations. University of Strathclyde and Decision Making in a Complex and Uncertain World, University of Groningen

MOOC Module Overviews

DS106 http://ds106.us/

“This course will require you to both design and build an online identity (if you don’t have one already) and narrate your process throughout the fifteen week semester. Given this, you will be expected to openly frame this process and interact with one another throughout the course as well as engage and interact with the world beyond as a necessary part of such a development.

In many ways this course will be part storytelling workshop, part technology training, and, most importantly, part critical interrogation of the digital landscape that is ever increasingly mediating how we communicate with one another.

The course objectives are rather straightforward:

  • Develop skills in using technology as a tool for networking, sharing, narrating, and creative self-expression
  • Frame a digital identity wherein you become both a practitioner in and interrogator of various new modes of networking
  • Critically examine the digital landscape of communication technologies as emergent narrative forms and genres

FutureLearn  https://www.futurelearn.com/courses

Understanding Modern Business and Organisations. University of Strathclyde

“This course is all about developing your own perspectives on the world of business and organisations today. And we will also try to help you prepare for changing these perspectives as the world of business and organisations is changing tomorrow.”

Decision Making in a Complex and Uncertain World. University of Groningen

“This course will teach you the first principles of complexity, uncertainty and how to make decisions in a complex world.”

Future learn ds106 comparison

I began this blog by asking ‘is comparing MOOCs like comparing apples and pears?’ and I think the answer is probably ‘yes’. Each platform is so different and offers something different for the learner. Choose with care!

H817, Week 10 Activity 14




The MOOC approach – adoptable for learning in corporate organisations?


Attribution share alike  AJ Cann https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/


At first glance and in theory a MOOC approach would be suitable for adoption in my world

  • Open access and freedom to learn something of interest to the individual which may enhance career opportunities and which in the traditional L&D sense may not be open to them now.
  • Supports lifelong learning and builds corporate capability
  • No obligation to complete so people may choose to dip in and out of MOOCs
  • Could improve collaboration – creating online social networks across the business
  • Create opportunities for educators to understand the appetite for learning outside the constraints of the traditional TNA (training needs analysis)
  • Will allow the organisation to gather Learner Analytics which may help the organisation to better understand learner online behaviour and which could inform the design of instructional methods across this and other elearning provision.
  • A MOOC approach may better meet the expectations of learners who increasingly expect to learn through social media

There are a number of considerations and challenges to overcome

  • How does the organisation measure learning and the impact on the business?
  • In a world where most organisational learning is centrally provided where does the responsibility for the learning sit? There are high drop out and low completion rates (how much does this matter?)
  • What is the value of expertise and the role of the educator? Does the MOOC model change the role of the L&D subject matter experts from provider to curator and what is the cultural change that this may require?
  • As a massive open course (MO of MOOC), how does the educator manage the mental stimulation that comes with the potential scale of interaction required?
  • What does it mean to be an active participant and how is this recognised and valued in the organisation?

So, a mixed bag. Are organisational ready for the MOOC approach to learning yet? Is anyone out there already doing it? If you happen to stumble across my blog and know the answer to this, please drop me a line. I’d be curious to understand more about how MOOCs can be adopted effectively in organisations.

Musings based on watching Cormiel, Siemens and Weller debate a number of issues concerning MOOCs and reading Liyanagunawardena et al. (2013), MOOCs: A systematic study of the published literature 2008-2012 and, MOOCs: What Motivates the Producers and Participants? (White, Su , Davis, Hugh, Dickens, KP, Leon Urrutia, Manuel and Sanchez Vera, Ma Mar, 2014) sourced from Katy Jordan’s MOOC literature browser (http://katyjordan.com/moocliterature/)

H817 Week 10 Activity 12

Big and little OER

benefits and drawbacks explored


Attribution share alike Kim ‘Big and little’ flickr

Weller (2011) differentiates between big and little OER, big being institutional led OER initiatives and projects and little being OER produced at an individual level. Weller suggests this may be another way to address sustainability of OER initiatives.

Drawing on Weller’s book chapter ‘Public Engagement as Collateral Damage’ I have attempted to identify the benefits and drawbacks of both big and little OER approaches.



The potential reach of big OER is significant e.g. MIT OpenCourseWare receives 200,000 monthly visitors, thus big OER can reach large audiences which can support widening participation in education and can act as a vehicle to recruit students. The online presence can enhance an institution’s reputation and can allow diversification of curriculum offerings.


The high cost of large scale projects means there needs to be funding in place, facilitated through a clear budget process, objectives, outcomes and KPIs, this inhibits opportunities for agility and being responsive to the unpredictability of the internet. These initiatives are usually top down with a small number of academics inputting and have low reuse potential.

Little OER


Bottom up internet innovation tends to be low cost (other than an individual’s time) and are organic, with high potential for reuse. Individual’s contributions can be aggregated and translated into different contexts. The innovative nature of little OER allows new formats and ideas to be explored outside the process flows of institutions and affords the opportunity to take advantage of any internet development. As an individual academic, little OER allows the opportunity to reach a broader audience, collaborate with a global network of experts, explore what you enjoy and engage fully with an online community.


For little OER to be sustainable it needs to become a ‘bi product of standard practice’, the element of sharing freely can carry risk and attitudinally some people may be wedded to habitual ‘traditional’ practice. There is an individual time cost and there may be a perception that money and time is lacking to digitise existing learning objects. Little OER may be seen as an additional activity and not worth these costs to the individual given its smaller reach and ‘viewing figures’. There is a need to have a robust network through which to disseminate learning objects and so developing and nurturing networks becomes an essential skill for the individual, a potential distraction from creating learning objects and yet another additional activity.



Week 9 activity 11

Applying sustainability models

This week we are looking into Sustainability of OER projects. In 2007, Wiley identified three models of sustainability which he labelled as

  • the MIT model
  • the USU model
  • the Rice model

There follows a brief review of the following open education initiatives against these three models.


Not directly related to any of the three models. Elements of the MIT model (employs own large  team) and the Rice model (modules taught from organisations across the world)


  • Private company
  • Large corporate structure with leadership team and many employees
  • Partners with 143 organisations in 28 countries and offers 1859 courses
  • Corporate university option to build a bespoke approach for the organisation
  • Charges a fee to study – with financial plans and loans available
  • Technology: apps and technology can be shared with user organisations

Funding comes from Venture Capital and from students and organisational users of the courses provided.


Most closely related to the USU model (small team, no third party owned materials) though with significant differences


  • Offers free teaching, learning and educational technology support across all 25 post-secondary sector organisations in British Columbia
  • Content created collaboratively with faculty instructors and institute staff – curated content
  • Develops OERs for professional development and academic support
  • Publicly funded

The Open Textbook initiative has saved students an estimated $1.2m to $1.6m


FutureLearn most closely relates to the Rice model in design (modules and courses from authors across the world and self organising) but not in scope and again there are significant differences


  • A collaboration of work from 82 partners – universities and other organisations such as British Library, British Museum
  • Organisations provide and lead their own module
  • A Ltd company, owned and funded by the Open University in the UK, no investors and not currently appearing to make a profit. It is unclear what the profit target is as this has not been published.
  • FutureLearn employs a small group of people with experience of designing learning for mobile and elearning technologies
  • IT platform provided by the Open University

 From a sustainability perspective FutureLearn looks vulnerable as there are no obvious signs of funding other that from the Open University


OpenLearn is a website offering free ‘taster’ courses for the Open University. It can almost be described as marketing activity for the OU and as such does not appear to fit within any of Wiley’s sustainability models


  • Taster courses from the Open University with over 800 modules available at all levels from entry to post graduate
  • Participation certificates and digital badges are available
  • Funding is unclear but as OpenLearn is hosted on the OU website and is focused on OU courses it can be assumed it is funded via the OU

As a showcase for a much larger organisation OpenLearn will continue so long as there is perceived benefit to the Open University.


Wiley, D. (2007) On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education, Paris, OECD. Also available online at http://www.oecd.org/ edu/ ceri/ 38645447.pdf


Week 9 Activity 10



Choosing a Creative Commons Licence

This week I have been looking at Licencing work and in particular at the use of Creative Commons licences.


For my H817 blog and related materials I produce, I have chosen the Attribution licence.  This module is all about openness in education and I have chosen this licence in the spirit of openness. I have had initial doubts about this as I feel a sense of ownership of my work but as the weeks go on I am learning to feel more comfortable about sharing my H817 work in this way.

This activity has led me to think about the work I produce in my Professional life and for this, at this moment, I have a different approach. For this work I would choose the Attribution, Non- Commercial and No Derivatives licence. I work in a highly competitive industry as a consultant and depend largely on intellectual property for my income. Often the key differentiator in winning a contract is around ideas and how they are expressed. For the moment I don’t have the courage to give these ideas away freely, even though in doing so I may see them morphed into something better and more interesting. Maybe over time my approach to this will change?


H817 Week 9 Activity 9

Attribution. jpg

Exploring OER issues

Three key issues in OER

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has defined OERs as ‘digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and re-use for teaching, learning and research’

Following the 2013-2014 OER Research Hub Evidence report I have identified three key issues:


Whilst there is some evidence that OER is creating opportunities for broader access to education than across the traditional education spectrum, there is mixed evidence that OER are reaching new learners. Whilst the report found that “88.4% of learners say the opportunity to study at no cost influenced their decision to use OER” only 4.1% of informal learner respondents had no formal education qualification, indeed 57.3% of informal learner respondents had either a Bachelors or Post Graduate University degree.  Initiatives such as Open Education Week (www.openeducationweek.org) and the European Commission’s OpenEdu project (www.is.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pages/EAP/OpenEdu) are examples of how these issues are being addressed.

Digital literacy

The capacity to search and identify relevant, high quality OER is fundamental to growth and sustainability. Understanding what is available and where to find it is a barrier to uptake and also further development of OER repositories. The OER evidence report highlights that ‘knowing where to find resources is one of the biggest challenges to using OER’ and whilst 95% of educators do share information about OER, there are still issues around where to source OER. A reason for this may be the lack of one central OER search engine and sense of being overwhelmed on searching for ‘OER resources’.

OER google saearch

Another reason may be the dominance of the three most widely used resources, YouTube, Khan academy and TED.

Individuals such as Javiera Atenas are so frustrated that they have attempted to pull together as may resources as possible. She has published them in her blog (she has found 73 to date)  https://oerqualityproject.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/directory-of-oer-repositories/


Whilst Creative Commons can help to give confidence that a learning object can be adapted, knowledge of the existence of Creative Commons does not in itself help facilitate the capacity to experiment with resources. The OER evidence report finds that not knowing whether you have the permission to change a resource is a blocker to reuse and adaptation. In addition, ‘quality is the most important’ element in engaging students and that just because something is free, that is not enough to engage.  There is a second potential issue, the disparity between using and sharing practice e.g. 82.5% of flipped Learning educators report adapting OER but only 5.1% have shared this under a Common Core open licence.

In 2014 Wiley conducted a study into the reasons why scholars chose to share, or not to share, their research data. The findings make interesting reading

Reseracher data sharing insights


One issue here is the lack of methodology to credit and attribute researchers for data sharing the Contributor Roles Taxonomy CRediT initiative may be the start of a methodology which will progress this. http://casrai.org/w/images/casrai.org/5/50/CRediT-Fact_Sheet-Jan_2016.pdf


Atenas, J. (August, 2014) Directory of OER repositories. Blog post [Online] Available at www.oerqualityproject.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/directory-of-oer-repositories/ (last accessed 1 April 2016)

Casrai  website (2016). [Online] available at http://casrai.org/Main_Page (last accessed 31 March 2016)

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (2007) Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources, OECD. Available from: www.oecd.org/ dataoecd/35/ 7/ 38654317.pdf (accessed 1 April 2016)

de los Arcos, B., Farrow, R., Perryman, L.-A., Pitt, R. and Weller, M. (2014), OER Evidence Report 2013–2014, OER Research Hub [online]. Available from http://oerresearchhub.org/ about-2/ reports/(last accessed 30 March 2016).

Meadows, A.  (Nov 11, 2014) ‘to share or not to share that is the research data question’ blog post [Online] available at http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2014/11/11/to-share-or-not-to-share-that-is-the-research-data-question/ (last accessed 31 March 2016)

Open edu project (2016) European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Information society unit. [Online] Available at www.is.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pages/EAP/OpenEdu (last accessed 1 April 2016)

Open Edu Week website, (2016) [Online] Available at www.openeducationweek.org/ (last accessed 1 April 2016)

H817 Week 8 Activity 7