At a pub with 2,000 of your closest friends

Earlier this week I jumped into two Twitter chats that were happening simultaneously. One is an on-going reunion of participants from #etmooc. The other is part of a new, school-year-long professional development forum called Open Online Experience 2013 (#ooe13), a venture that also grew out of the #etmooc community.

That #etmooc connection between the two chats meant that I was not the only one attempting the double-Twitter-chat feat. Several online friends and familiar names were juggling back and forth, catching up on new projects, sharing goals for the year and just socializing.

For me (and I know for others as well) the chat exemplified the value of connectivist MOOCs and similar online learning activities that focus on connecting and building relationships as much as sharing content. By design, the community is the course. And if you are fortunate, the community and the relationships continue well beyond the course container (specified topics and start and end dates for the event).

Which is likely how I came to make this comment in response to Christina’s question:

It was a spur-of-the-moment answer that – as I now reflect on it – probably came out because I was in fact at an Irish pub in Madison, Wisconsin only a few days before these Twitter chats with (not 2,000 but) a large gathering of family and friends for a post-reception after-party at my daughter’s wedding. Maybe there is some kind of drinking-establishment recency effect (or perhaps I am just obsessed with pubs) but I honestly felt a similar level of companionship, social connectedness and welcome during the Twitter chats as I did at Brochach in Madison.

So yes, by extension, I could make a pretty good case that cMOOCs — if you have not experienced them — can be a lot like being at a pub with 2,000 of your closest friends. I’d modify that a bit to make it friends who tend to geek out about the same topics and issues that interest you. And of course no one really has 2,000 close friends. But picture a place where you could wander around and run into someone you hadn’t seen in awhile and just pick up where you left off. Or you get introduced to someone you don’t know yet, but they are a friend of a friend who has some different way of thinking about a topic you both care about. You grab a pint. Talk it all over.

All analogies – including this one – leave out key elements of the reality they are intended to describe. But my experience with cMOOCs is that they can routinely create these grab-a-pint-and-talk-it-over moments. Out of that emerges the real value of being connected.

And yeah. Ok. I am obsessed with pubs.

14 thoughts on “At a pub with 2,000 of your closest friends

  1. Great analogy Jeff, you had me at pub….. I’ve only participated in one cMOOC but found your description to be similar to my experience which is why I’m looking forward to participating in more cMOOC’s in future.

    Can I get you a pint?


  2. Love the analogy Jeff. #etmooc was my first mooc experience and I remember feeling like I had to be a part of every conversation when I first started #etmchat. After a few weeks I realized it’s ok to have side conversation. I often keep my twitter open both to the hashtag as well as my connection page during a twitterchat. What’s your tip


    1. Erin – I agree. Some of the side conversations I’ve had during Twitter chats have been really interesting, and many are the starting point of new connections.

      I use Hootsuite during most Twitter chats – so on my screen I can see the hashtag, my contacts and @ mentions. Really handy. When I did the double chat (never again!) I also had open in another window (following just one of the chats). It worked – but it was exhausting! And it probably only worked well because there was a lot of crossover between the chats since many participants were active in both.


  3. I definitely get this. Particularly when referring to the Twitter chats themselves. I’ve even been in the position before where I’ve been frustrated to have actually been in the pub with friends knowing that I’m missing out on a Twitter chat that’s going on. What does that say about me?!0

    (In fact, with the twitter chats for OOE13 not being time zone friendly for me, I do kinda feel like I just get to read about that great night at the pub where everyone made great friends).


    1. Ahhh…a new goal for me: Twitter chatting while at the pub. 🙂 Thanks Hayley for the inspiration.

      Funny though. I have also had that experience of missing Twitter chats and then going back to read them. The good part is that they are there to be read – but like you say, it’s like having someone tell you what a great night you missed out on.

      My experience is that over the long term it all evens out. Just doing things like this (commenting on people’s blogs) starts to build connections. That’s what I love about these open events. Every time I participate in one, I meet a lot of fascinating people.

      Thanks for the comment. See you around OOE13!


  4. …as good an image of a connectivist mooc as I’ve come across ~ immediately clear to anyone who has been in one while equally mind-boggling to anyone who has not. I’m particularly interesting in checking out the latter. More leisurely continuations on blogs is part of it too, works works both directions. Make that lots of bars too: bar hopping minus the tapas.


    1. Thanks Venessa for the reblog. Have been a bit delayed in responding to comments lately so my apologies. But yeah – to your point – this still probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to anyone who has not enjoyed some of the same experiences that we have. I still find it all fascinating though – and get a little jolt of happiness whenever I “run into” people I’ve met during MOOCs online occasionally. Guess that’s why I keep coming back, eh?


  5. I’m so glad I had a chance to finally read this post! You’ve captured the feeling perfectly, Jeff. No wonder I’m missing my #etmooc pals. 🙂 I need to somehow get more efficient or more organized so I can fit the chats back into my schedule. Thanks for reminding me how important it is to blog, chat and reflect. Cheers!


    1. Thanks Fenella! Appreciate the compliment. Funny – was discussing with one of my colleagues (who made similar good learning relationships through edcmooc) how there seems to be a pattern developing around how we jump into these events where we connect/re-connect and then we go dark for awhile while we deal with work or personal life loads. And that THAT seems to be ok. It’s easy to slide back in and we seem to be able to easily re-create the positive stuff we enjoyed the first time we all came together. There are so many of these events that are now spinning off from both etmooc and edcmooc — our own #xplrpln being one — that you have to pick and choose when you head out to the pub, I guess. But that’s ok. Or, it should be. Those of us who want to continue learning and sharing ideas with an extended network of pals need to give each other permission to join in at our own discretion.


  6. Thanks for linking to this last night in the #xplrpln twitter chat. Having lived in the UK for 7 years I can definitely connect with the Pub metaphor. Plus, it’s a great description of how these cMOOC’s operate. I’m glad you just “happened” to come up with this idea.
    I’m also glad to be a part of your pub now. Looking forward to further conversation.


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