DOCC 2013, or Feminist Anti-MOOC

The creation of the first DOCC – a distributed open collaborative course – is a response to MOOCs by FemTechNet, a network of feminist scholars, artists, and students. Their response is motivated by a shared concern regarding MOOCs as centralised courses offered by a professor or instructor to a massive audience, more reflective of xMOOCs than cMOOCs. The centralised format of one (or two) professor(s) and the pre-established courseware or syllabi appear to maintain distance between an all-knowing professor who owns or transmits knowledge to subordinate learners, which is perceived by some FemTechNet collaborators as patriarchal. DOCCs are meant to challenge the concept of MOOCs. The DOCC’s introduction for Self-Directed Learners states: “Unlike during a MOOC, SDLs (self-directed learners) will not receive knowledge from DOCC 2012, but rather SDLs will participate in designing and directing their own experiences with DOCC 2013 materials and with other participants.”

The nodal course or DOCC 2013 is entitled Dialogues on Feminism and Technology. Seventeen institutions are designing, delivering, and constructing the course, with F2F classes and self-directed learners participating, including: Green State University, Brown University, California Polytechnic State University, Colby-Sawyer College, The CUNY Graduate Center, Macaulay Honors College and Lehman College (CUNY), The New School, Ohio State University, Ontario College of Art and Design University, Pennsylvania State University, Pitzer College, Rutgers University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Yale University. Building on theoretical feminist principles and feminist pedagogies, the nodal course explores the following themes: labour, sexuality, race, differences, body, machine, systems, place, infrastructure, archives, and transformation. The video dialogue series feature Anne Balsamo, Dean of the School of Media Studies at the New School, and other scholars interviewing two guest speakers at a time for 45 minutes talks. Theorist Donna Haraway and her 1985 essay The Cyborg Manifesto have heavily influenced the guest speakers, who are scholars, artists, and activists (Judy Wajcman, Julie Levin Russo, Lucy Suchman, and Donna Haraway herself). The interdisciplinarity and blend of academics and artists in the DOCC’s video dialogues are very appealing. Learners enrolled in the course through an institution for credit can engage with their F2F colleagues and disseminate individual and groups projects. Self-directed learners can also participate in various networked spaces such as Facebook and Google+. The WikiStorming Project invites participants to write and edit Wikipedia content in order to augment the presence of women and to create awareness of the gender bias existing in in the encyclopedia.

In terms of weaknesses, the DOCC, which is meant to be global, has drawn primarily on American, British, and Australian guest speakers and the majority of participating universities are American. The interviews have been in English and no transcription is available for potential translation (through automated translation programmes, for example). The potential to reach learners internationally could be facilitated by engaging with universities outside the English speaking world.

It is not clear how different a DOCC is from a connectivist MOOC. The distributedness of a DOCC seems to correspond to connectivist principles. Can connectivist MOOCs exhibit elements of patriarchy? Connectivist MOOCs might still be run primarily by men. The first DOCC has involved all women scholars and deals with gender and feminism(s), without defining the construct of women. The dualism of gender and the essentialism of the category of women are called into question by various speakers. Further research could explore if and how connectivism is compatible with feminism and if DOCCs apply connectivist principles.


2 thoughts on “DOCC 2013, or Feminist Anti-MOOC

  1. Hi Naomi

    I think the DOCC13 effort started out with 15 institutions in North America, but spread to a few more, with at least one in the UK. I tried following the DOCC13 Google Groups discussion early in the course. I see that the Toronto’s Ontario College of Art and Design University was involved. You are right about the limitation if the unilingual format and design. I don’t know of many MOOCs in French (although I recall Stephen Downes discussing one a couple of months ago).

    The organisers of the DOCC 2013 initiative helpfully published a white paper that explains their motivations and philosophy ( It is interesting to compare this with George Siemens’ 2005 paper on Connectivism ( I’m not sure if the DOCC format is a variant or a different animal altogether, but it does look like a promising approach. @CathyNDavidson’s Coursera MOOC linked to place-based nodes and globally dispersed groups ( seems to be the next stage in the DOCC approach. Good to catch your Tweets and to connect with someone else who is interested in MOOCs.


    Mark McGuire

    • Hi Mark McGuire:

      Thank you for your comment.
      I am enjoying your tweets, blogs, and discussions too. You seem very well versed in MOOC research. I saw you on the DOCC’s Google+ group. I myself only found the DOCC at the end of November.
      I didn’t know about the DOCC participating university in the UK but I did know about OCAD in Toronto. I know of a French (France) connectivist MOOC called Effets durables (sustainable development) organised by Michelle Denis, The course is finished but the community will continue here:; note that this is the login page. I am not sure how to send you an open page. I heard about the sustainable development French MOOC from Downes’ MOOC newsletter in the fall. Regarding Downes, does he speak French? He might. One of his blog posts inspired from a talk he gave seemed to be a translation from the original in French. Also, there was a MOOC conference at Université de Montréal: Downes’ newletter contains some Spanish and German MOOCs now but they appear to be xMOOCs.
      I am not so concerned about the English phenomenon just yet with the DOCC because this was the first iteration of the course and it is a starting point. Anne Balsamo discussed this as the English problem in one of her video dialogues so I think the awareness of Anglocentricism in academia and its extension in MOOC is great. I suspect further efforts will attempt to reach out to international universities, communities, and individuals from various language communities. I was thinking of volunteering to translate some documents myself.
      I read the White Paper last week and have been analysing the DOCC in relation to Siemens’ and Downes’ writings, not the Siemens piece you mentioned but with his paper: Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime for the Self-Amused? ( as well as Downes’ 2012 ebook, Connectivism and Connected Knowledge.
      From my perspective, the DOCC corresponds to connectivist principles but remains different from a cMOOC. As the White Paper says so clearly, it is not an xMOOC or corporate MOOC and is in fact a response to and rejection of these. Feminist pedagogy lends itself to a critique of the new MOOC due to its focus on diffusing power, giving a voice to historically marginalised people, diversity of opinion, etc., all of which seem compatible with connectivist theory. I see less open connecting between all participants in the DOCC because it is nodal and it seems the Self-Directed Learners were either fewer in number or perhaps communicating, interacting, and self-publishing less. Students enrolled through a university seemed to be communicating through their own LMS as well as in open spaces. Students, scholars, and self-directed learners are Tweeting or were creating blog posts and disseminating through the FemTechNet site with links under the Key Learning Projects established by their institutions. It seems that the participant interaction and aggregation of discussions and blog, etc. are done differently than in many connectivist MOOCs. I wouldn’t know how to map the learner analytics but I think the map would look different to other connectivist MOOCs.
      So perhaps you are correct: DOCCs are a variant of connectivist MOOCs, and a rejection of what MOOCs have become (as Juhasz said in an email to me yesterday).
      Thank you so much for your comment.

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