We now have a group tuition policy which has as one of its aims to cluster online discussions to obtain a ‘critical mass’; this has arisen in part from the very poor levels of participation in both f2f and online tuition. My experience of a recent MOOC which had over 1000 students was that I was not inclined to join the forums – they were so huge I felt they were too impersonal to bother with. I did join the Facebook feed for the course and have a glance and the posts that pop up, which are mainly links to articles / resources but I don’t feel I have participated in any meaningful way.
As a comparison the Digipad on the online course I recently studied (over a similar time period) I have felt connected very quickly – on this course there were only 12 students – is this the smaller size, the design or both? Sadly I don’t think we can just conclude that if our OULive groups only had 12 members students would enthusiastically engage – but I do wonder if there is learning about the design and also a warning about risks of size? We cant turn back the tide of clustering, in any case we know that in single tutor group sessions participation was very low, but we can think about break out rooms, and about ways in which tutors can personalise and set up subsets of students who can actually get to know each other – there must be some tricks we are missing about how to build confidence / break down barriers that prevent students participating. Without cracking this nut of participation I don’t see how we can ever achieve an effective rhizomatic design.