The drop rate — comparing the thousands of registered users with the few visible participants who regularly contribute postings, the drop rate seems indeed alarming. But I would be cautious with both figures: Registered for something completely free, does not necessarily mean more than “Let’s have a look into this shop window and pass on”. Of course it is an unsettling challenge to traditional quantitative research that really nobody has even a rough idea about how many registrants intended to do more and what these are doing now. But in any case, participation cannot be measured on an “all or nothing” basis (which should not surprise connectivists who embrace just these kinds of membership connections that are (Wikipedia:) not all of equal strength (= 1). Who are those who “fall by the wayside” ? Those who do not regularly contribute in the strict sense of E. Duval ? Then I am guilty, too, but I think I have engaged a lot with the matter already when I was just considering another posting. And even if I am only skimming some of the resources, I think I should not count as a drop-out. But I agree that the share of visible contributors has slightly decreased since CCK08.
Many of the analyses of the problem focus around the difficulty of finding orientation and the appropriate reading. For example, point 3 and 4 of Jenny’s summary: too much going on (no stigmergy possible), and too much choice (opportunity costs). And Jon Dron complains about the Daily (“what gets aggregated is presented as a single, flat stream of content”) and pleads for collaborative filtering (“to draw attention to to things that are more interesting”).
- Too much going on (no stigmergy possible): I think the main reason why too much seems to be going on, is the derivative activity of retweeting, “like”ing, or reposting, to draw attention to interesting things. If somebody has for the first time bothered to write some original content and this is buried among loads of derivative content, s/he might be frustrated. If I understood “stigmergy” correctly, it is just this kind of drawing of attention.
- Too much choice (opportunity costs). If one thinks of the opportunity costs “(imagining that other choices would have been better)” of selecting some content out of the massive diversity, s/he is probably not interested in the benefits of autonomous, arbitrary picking but eventually more in optimized Nuremberg funneling of knowledge?
- The single flat stream of aggregation. But the Daily is not the only means of aggregation, it is just the only one for those wanting guidance. I also have great problems with that flat format, and I am glad that Stephen offers the OPML file that I can structure as I want. (However, I fully agree with Jon Dron that more programming is required and in particular his point “visualisation – … tools to help show threads, …”.)
Besides these points about finding one’s reading, there is a major focus on more structure and parcellation. Here I just tersely say that this goes completely against my sense of connectedness of the various concepts, which is, after all, one of the layers of connectivism.
But even if all the above obstacles for reading orientation were removed, this would not yet increase the writing of more contributions. I do want to share my speculations about the reason for this, but beware, it is unfinished, messy and questionable.
In previous MOOCs the 2-3 main facilitators were slightly more in the foreground, and they modeled and demonstrated their own thinking about the emergent connectivism. These concepts and the resulting teaching appeared as, if not messy, then somewhat unfinished, and hence encouraged a similarly messy learning to be openly shared by the participants.
In this MOOC, by contrast, I have the impression that many of the weekly speakers appear as experts whose opinion is more settled and tends to intimidate learners from uttering possible discomfort or objections. Even in Stephen and George’s institutions, research about connectivist phenomena seems already more scientifically settled. (Albeit it is perhaps shortened to selected aspects of the social level, cleanly dissected abstract concepts, or observeable behavioral data, at least compared to the kind of connectivism that I once enthusiasticly welcomed as a whole new view like the Renaissance — but that is an aside). Anyway, our writing as learners will be messy as learning always is, and it is slightly harder to mess up with settled experts. Perhaps aggravating is that each week there is a new expert, although it is great that so many experts are volunteering for us.
Another difference to previous MOOCs can probably be subsumed under deliverable artefacts. Previously there were assignments of short papers, a final project, and continuous updating of Cmaps or similar. Although I was never signed up for credit, their due dates helped “structuring” my free-time activities, and I miss these MOOC components.