When a Small Group Traverses a MOOC Together

[When members of the Metaliteracy Collaborative became aware of the Incredibly Small Face to Face Community at The Ohio State University focused on the Metaliteracy MOOC, we asked Beth Black, Brian Leaf, and Karen Diaz if they might want to write a post for this blog. We are delighted that they were interested.]


When I saw the announcement for the Metaliteracy MOOC on the ILI (Information Literacy Instruction) mailing list I had just failed to complete the Forecasting Next Generation Libraries course-ference [http://www.carthage.edu/library-celebration/forecasting/]. I had also just recently read Trudi Jacobson and Tom Mackey’s article Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy and was intrigued because it seemed to bring together many things that are happening simultaneously in the field. I knew that I needed to participate in the Metaliteracy MOOC but that I had to do something to help me stay engaged with it in the face of so many other demands on my time and attention.

I am exceptionally fortunate to work with a group of colleagues who are passionate learners, educators and librarians. I knew that if we could share the experience of the MOOC, I would learn more and be more likely to finish. So I forwarded the Metaliteracy MOOC announcement to several colleagues, adding “I am interested in this and think it might be good to study this in a group. Anyone interested in participating with me? I think we might be able to meet for lunch regularly during the MOOC to discuss or even watch some of the lectures together.” My invitation was warmly received and five of us initially met (four continued until the end). We determined that we would meet between the MOOC’s scheduled live sessions (approximately every other week) over our lunch hours to discuss what we learned. Now we had scheduled appointments and each other to keep us going.

After our first meeting, Brian Leaf suggested that we join the broader conversation by blogging. He blogged on his personal blog [http://bdleaf.net/] while the rest of us took turns writing for our Information Literacy Toolkit blog [http://library.osu.edu/toolkit/blog/tag/Metaliteracy]. The combination of the regular meetings with colleagues and writing for the blog kept all of us engaged. And best of all, it benefited not just me and the other members of our Incredibly Small Face to Face Community  (ISFFC) but others in the MOOC with whom we interacted as well.


The major difference between participating in the Metaliteracy MOOC and my other failed attempts at MOOCs has been the ISFFC meetings coordinated by Beth Black. In order to stay on top of our discussions, I relied heavily on the live session chat backchannel, blogs and tweets of other participants. By engaging others in dialogue, I was able to increase the depth of my understanding of Metaliteracy content and concepts. In fact, I find that I am still tweeting ideas and articles using hashtags that came out of particular sessions (i.e. technobiophilia).

While I didn’t always do a good job of recording where particular things came from as I haphazardly copied-and-pasted text, these bits of dialogue can stand alone:

On metacognition –


12:46 PM
metacognition would be difficult, and probably important for someone say, on the autism spectrum to achieve. I keep thinking of it in terms of people with Asperger’s, a need for, and difficulty accomplishing metacognition as well as a lower EQ/EI

On what isn’t storytelling –

12:07 PM
even rocks tell a story

On openness –


There were, of course, many compelling statements that are too numerous to mention; but suffice to say, this format provided an avenue that I preferred given time constraints. And then the opportunity to participate in different ways meant that our contributions to our in-person discussions would be varied. There’s a blog post I’ve since lost track of that discussed how the success of this MOOC might be measured. While I haven’t spent much time thinking about this in particular, I do believe that the fact that our small community stayed engaged to the end speaks volumes because, in the end, it’s about people.


For me, the most useful parts of the ISFFC were both the summaries of what happened online that I missed as well as some of the tangents that we took in our discussions.  For instance, on the day that the MOOC explored the role of Scholarly Communication in metaliteracy, one member of our group still felt sort of fuzzy on the connection.  I had read the ACRL publication Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy and attended a session of it at the 2013 ACRL Conference last spring.  Weeks before that white paper came out I had already approached our librarian in charge of library publishing about that very issue, and indicated that she needed to not only be developing our publishing program, but also contributing to our information literacy instruction. I had done a lot of thinking and processing of this issue before hand and thus I was able to give a practical and down to earth explanation that I think helped my colleague, but also helped me articulate some of what had been spinning in my head for months.

Another tangent we took on another day was a discussion of teaching strategies. In particular we were talking about holding students accountable to a certain level of understanding, description and application of information literacy concepts in our credit courses. One librarian was shocked when a student questioned why she removed points on an assignment, declaring that her standards of good were not the same as his.  This led to a discussion of power differentials in teaching, and questioning of how “harsh” we should be with students in the grading of our classes.   One of our colleagues shared a story about watching an HBO series called Masterclass.  She indicated that the students in these series were bright, dedicated and talented teens and young adults who “won” the chance to learn from a true master. Most of the masters took a nurturing approach to teaching establishing positive relationships with their students.  However, one master yelled at his students when they were wrong.  But interestingly, the students in that instance found the correction very helpful and still learned from it.

There were other times we talked about whether the definition of metaliteracy being presented on a given day seemed too far of a stretch.  For instance, the technobiophilia concept veered too far for me. It felt like a disorienting conversation and somewhat of a stretch for everyone, although a couple in our group could grasp it better than I did. (I laugh now to see Brian continue to use the hashtag.) Questioning and discussions like this helped me in particular think about where the edges of metaliteracy lie.  It also made me wonder when the mix of literacies is helpful and when will we need to separate concepts out again.

It seems to us there is room for ongoing conversation about the topic. The Metaliteracy MOOC began some wide-reaching discussion and gave language to many ideas. Our ISFFC helped us begin some internal conversation using that language.

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