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ECOLOGY METAPHOR: merits and challenges involved in formative evaluation: Jeff Waistell

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Jeff Waistell
21 February 2013

What are the merits and challenges involved in formative evaluation in the domain of sustainability? I believe that evaluation should bio-mimicry ecology itself:

  • as the planet has many species and habitats, so evaluation must take into account other stakeholders, human and non-human (e.g. how to evaluate whether the MOOC can have, and is having, an impact on environmentalism.
  • ecology evokes systems impacts within a complex web of interactions. Thus it is necessary to see how the functions of the MOOC - learning, discussion, and campaigning - affect each other. And how do stakeholders interact?
  • How is this MOOC evolving into a MOOOLE - a massive, open, online, and ongoing learning environment? Is is it developing a life of its own, growing by itself without being regimented by its originator?
  • Are the habitats (e.g. diffferent discussion areas and technologies) conducive to the health and interaction of their species (learners)?
  • Is there a climate change in the air? i.e. is there a developing concerns for environmental issues?
  • Is this MOOOLE sustainable? Will it last? What will keep it going in the future?

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Tom Reeves
9:56pm 23 February 2013


Jeff, I like the way you have used ecology as a metaphor for formative evaluation. It reminded me of a book that Nick Smith edited back in 1981 titled: Metaphors for Evaluation: Sources of New Methods. Here is a description of the book: “Seeks out new perspectives and methods for the field of evaluation -- the assessment of the efficacy of social programmes -- by comparing it with seven other disciplines: investigative reporting, law, architecture, geography, philosophy, literary and film criticism and water colour painting.” The book is out of print, but can probably be found in many academic libraries.

I also like your concept of a “MOOOLE - a massive, open, online, and ongoing learning environment,” although I am struggling with a proper pronunciation. One of the earlier MOOCs I was involved in was focused on “Change in Formal Education Systems.” http://change.mooc.ca/index.html  The Change MOOC had a lot of potential to become an ongoing learning environment, but did not as far as I know.

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