“It was like a little community”: An ethnographic study of online learning and its implications for MOOCs
Article first published online: 11 FEB 2014
© 2013 by The American Anthropological Association. Some rights reserved.
Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings
Volume 2013, Issue 1, pages 186–199, September 2013
How to Cite
WASSON, C. (2013), “It was like a little community”: An ethnographic study of online learning and its implications for MOOCs. Ethnographic Praxis, 2013: 186–199. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-8918.2013.00017.x
- Issue published online: 11 FEB 2014
- Article first published online: 11 FEB 2014
In this time of social, technical, educational and industrial upheaval, time and space are being compressed and stretched as social actors develop new practices in response to shifts in their lived experience. In the American educational sector, these phenomena have crystalized in the meteoritic rise of MOOCs, massive open online courses. The story of their ascent weaves together neoliberal shifts in financing education, technology developments, and perceived business opportunities. MOOCs have captured the imagination of the business press, venture capitalists, and university leaders. However, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the perceptions of students who are taking online courses – in other words, the users. Drawing on an ethnographic study of a small online class, this paper describes the limitations of MOOC pedagogies by comparison with low-enrollment online courses, and concludes by casting doubt on the effectiveness of MOOC learning experiences as well as MOOC business models.