Category Archives: Blog

What’s Happening on COOC’s? Here are the Latest Blogs

Vote COOCs!

Coocs are included in a series ideas that are open to votes in an ‘improve my city’ challenge.

See my presentation here (I will do another, better one if we win) – to vote for COOCs, go to the website and regsiter, click the thumbs up to vote (we also get a point if you leave a comment so please feel free to do so).


April 5, 2016 Blog

COOCS, Howard Rheingold & DML Central

COOCS recently had the privilege of being discussed with Prof. Howard Rheingold  for the DML Central network.

The blog and video interview id included in full her and more DML Central projects can be found at

The Power of Community Open Online Courses

When MOOCs came along, and were swiftly adopted as the latest venture-funded startup fad, many who didn’t receive so much publicity back then started thinking of possibilities other than massive courses or strictly commercial open courses. Peter Shukie, lecturer at Community College, Blackburn, UK, and doctoral student at Lancaster University, started experimenting with “COOCs” — Community Open Online Courses.

“The idea came from my experiences in adult literacy and community education, especially around students and teachers who seemed to be excluded — while at the same time being courted — by moves toward a technology-inspired learning ecology. At the same time, I was hearing many staff and students bemoan the way that technology was ‘getting in the way of learning,’ I was seeing the world of Web 2.0 possibilities. After following the emergence of MOOCs and the way they were portrayed at first as a Borg-like mass of traditional educational institutions and entrepreneurial institutions, it seemed to me that the biggest issue was not the technology — videos, forums, chats, and online texts — but the way it was being introduced by business managers and governments, policy-makers and software salespeople, start-ups and big universities with little indication that the technology had emerged from any kind of educational evaluation,” Shukie says.

Like many of us, Shukie was inspired by Jim Groom and what was called at the time “Edupunk” (a term Groom no longer uses), a pedagogical approach that emphasized openness, participation, learner-driven curriculum, experimentation, DIY ethos. Another influence wasSugata Mitra’s “Self-Organized Learning Environments.”

“It has been important that COOCs is not linked to an institution but stands as a free space where creativity and exploration are the goals. The curriculum is whatever people want it to be and it is decided by the users.  I have been motivated in the past by popular educators such as Paulo Freire, Myles Horton and Tom Lovett.  The idea that the secret is not a secret, that the goal is not elusive and that learning is not a mystery always needs the involvement and motivation of the learners has driven me. COOCs rely on people being willing to share what they know, to be willing to try creatively to express their interests and ideas and be motivated to do so out of an innate human need to learn, and develop,” Shukie says.

The basic principles of COOCs are simple: Learning is everywhere, not just in institutions. Like P2PU, anyone can start a course at any time, for no cost, about any subject. Interest comes first and the course, as decided by those who are interested in learning a subject, derives from that. Like peeragogy, COOCs don’t even require a designated instructor — the group can decide for itself whether to follow an instructor or divide the labor of facilitating learning. Do they “work?” Shukie believes that assessment of the effectiveness of a course should belong to the learner: Drop-out rates don’t matter if learners feel that they’ve learned something. Assessment and evaluation are not ruled out, but they are defined by the learners.

In our video interview, Shukie and I talk about how COOCs work and how they are working.


March 21, 2016 Blog

COOCs in the News

COOCs has found its way into a few other publications over the last few months and in an attempt to put these together I thought a blog post would be helpful. I have included the links below and hopefully the collective dialogue offers some insight.
It would be great ti get some COOCs users speaking on here, either in an interview or through writing. I’m learning how to podcast at the moment and hopefully that will be an new avenue for us to share what we are doing.

Here are the links mentioned:

‘Ill let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours’ article in FE News

Free Education interview with Inspire Share

PODCAST with Ragged University on philosophy of COOCs

Keith Smyth’s excellent blog on Third Spaces in tertiary education

Jeremy Knox’s journal article in Distance Education that inverts what we are doing it seems, but offers a view from within the institutions that is worth challenging

Anything more you’d like adding, sharing or promoting course or views wise, let me know. If you would like to take part in an interview on your COOCs experiences, positive or negative, get in touch and we can arrange it.

December 26, 2015 Blog

Talking about COOCs in ‘COOCs Talk’


Getting involved is all there is to it

Getting involved is all there is to it

Here is the opening to a new space on COOCs, a ‘course’ in as much as it has that name – in essence, it is a place to share any thought about learning, sharing, creating and anything at all about COOCs.

The course is HERE  and all are welcome.

Hi, I am Peter and I have created the opening stages of COOCs based on my belief that we are all able to learn, and that we are also all able to teach. I have learned form many people in my life, and for the most part this learning has not been in institutions (although lots of it has). The people that have been the most compelling teachers are not necessarily those that have had an official role of ‘teacher’.

What I have learned has also been wide and varied, some of it painful, some exciting, some of lifelong relevance and some that lasted only a short time – how much do we learn and forget!

What started my interest in COOCs was the growing awareness that what I needed to learn, and who would be able to learn it from, could not be confined to purely institutional courses, set curricula and a focus on accreditation/ certificates/ qualifications. As I look back over many experiences it was the development of my self, through books (and film, and poetry, and TV and theatre and comics and newspapers, magazines, graffiti, letters, blogs!!!), discussion, experiences, demonstration and instruction, challenges, opportunities and many other forms of engagement that have kept me interested in learning.

But where does this go? I think many people are left to sugar their experiences with a relatively small group of friends and acquaintances. So much of what we know and have to share is left unsaid or isolated. While institutions are making use of the internet and new networks to spread the knowledge of the experts in those places, what about everyone else? What about the beekeepers, the outsider artists, the poets and the gardeners, the writers and the philosophers, the builders, makers, thinkers outside the university? Where do all those skills and ideas go to?

It is clear that much of the internet is being built up by groups of people that are interested in a whole range of things. These smaller (even high) communities are exciting and have huge potential. What i hoped COOCs could do is create a space where we can do something similar to that but also share amongst us the ways that we can use technology, create online spaces and begin to develop new ideas about who teaches, what they teach and how they do it. The internet is a free space (for now!) and COOCs is an attempt to continue to create free as an aspect of education, a key feature that encourages engagement and play, experimentation and creativity. Without institutional involvement there are fewer issues around what should be included, how long things last, what entry criteria exists, who is invited and who is not.

You can design the whole leaning space based on your interests and ideas.

What I would like to do is ask you to make some comments on your view of COOCs. These may be positive, they may be unsure or even negative. What i would like is an opportunity to create a place to learn from you, for all of us to learn from each other. COOCs is not a finished article, it is very much a becoming, something not finished. I want to invite you to take part, add your ideas and help shape what our become will be. We have made sure that the content and access can come in public spaces, libraries and community venues where they exist, and as much as possible we have tried to avoid any hidden costs related to broadband and device ownership. I know this is reliant on the situation where you live and any ideas on how we could help advance that, make us more accessible, would be great to hear.

This section is a forum, a simple drop in and talk/ type/ post place. I look forward to speaking together and hope you will join in and help us make COOCs something that works for you.

See you there (well, HERE!)

October 30, 2015 Blog

COOCs and the RSA

This week COOCs featured in the RSA newsletter under the ‘Big Idea’ section and the article is linked to below.  It is great to have some backing from an organisation like the RSA as it promotes the spreading of ideas, thinking and action beyond the walls of the institutions.  I hope that each of you can benefit from some increased exposure and if you have any ideas of how we can help you develop and promote your courses please get in touch.

The emphasis is always on the development of you as course creators and the communities of learners you serve.  What our own COOCs community can hopefully offer is a supportive and vibrant space to exchange ideas on how we make courses more engaging,  the templates of teaching and learning, of sharing knowledge, are not fixed, static or even stable.  They are free-flowing and responsive to how each of us envisions them.  We can break the mould of who does the teaching and what is taught and it is an exciting time for us to add our ideas, skills and practices to the discussion.

Here is the RSA article and it would be great to see COOC creators commenting on the RSA blog or here.  The more we get involved, the more we can see each of our COOCs develop.


There is an exciting and impressive approach to developing a well being course by Jo Riley that has gone live this week.  Wellbeing through Floristry attempts to merge real world skills and practical application of creative potential in a supportive and developmental way.   Jo has used an existing interest in how activity and participation can help loosen the ties of mental anxiety to begin a course of personal growth.  It begins with floristry and will grow to include cookery. photography, art and other creative pursuits.  We wish Jo all the best with her COOC and hope that some of you are able to sign up, take part, make something beautiful and help yourselves and the community become even more active and alive.

Let us know if you want to share anything with others via the blog and tell us what COOCs you have got planned.  we hope to develop the ‘how to COOC’ course soon and really all we are waiting for is some ideas and offers of help.

Get in touch, stay happy

Much Love


February 7, 2015 Blog

General Guidance or a Course?

Anyone-can-teach-or-learn-at-coocsI have been pondering how best we can develop the way we create COOCs.  We have had around a dozen new COOCS in the last few months and the way these develop is done to each individual.  In a way, that is the whole point.  We want the space to be open to anyone to develop their course, for their audience, with their knowledge, using their practices just as they see fit.

What may also be great to see though, is the sharing of these ideas to help each of us learn new ways of creating, building and developing ways of learning and ways of teaching.  I have created a rough (it is rough) guide to a sort of meta-course we could do together, teach together, learn together.  Really, it seems to read as just session one/ week one/ stage one and might go on to show how we use video or how we use collaboration?  Perhaps we can look at assessment and how we can use some, none, lots?  What form of assessment?

MOODLE has lots of tools within it we can apply and use.  It is something we can explore together and that each of us can take back to our own courses and use with our own groups and peers.

Anyway, the course is below and I would love to hear what thoughts you have and whether we such a course is something you are interested in.

Session Title:Bricks in walls and factories of illusion. Questioning what it means to be an educator – what can we do collectively (or individually) to improve what we do?
Aim of session:






Are we, as Doris Lessing says below, part of a self-perpetuating system of indoctrination? Does Mark Twain’s statement that “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education” mean anything to you?   What kind of educators are we and what kind of educators do we want to be?

Using some critical approaches to education this session is a chance to discuss ideas related to being an educator. What does it mean, what do you feel is important and what would you like to change?

We can seek some answers and at least feel heartened by the sharing of ideas. There will be opportunities to bring in your own ideas and seek ways of creating innovation in what we do now. This is a session that we will create between ourselves and shape based on our collective consciousness.


“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.”
Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

Who should attend:


Anyone with an interest in the ways we can create learning that appeals to a diverse group and moves beyond purely traditional concepts of learning and teaching.
Benefits of attending:





This session offers a space to reflect on educational practice and relate your own ideas of education to some grand narratives and critical approaches to education. The goal is to give an opportunity for free-thinking, creative expression and sharing of your approach to the job that you do.   The benefits are individual, clearly, but may well help to generate a sense of shared concern with what it is we do and what we can perhaps to change to improve our experiences’ if we are happy, creative and alive what benefits can come from that? We will enjoy a lively discussion, a sharing of thoughts and a collective appreciation of our own beliefs, ideals and how these can inform our creativity.
January 26, 2015 Blog

The COOCS Launch



It is perhaps inevitable that any new venture takes longer than anticipated to find the right way to communicate with all the users it hopes will be, well, using it!  COOCs has now passed a year since the first launch in Balckburn and with some help now from the Ragged University and the RSA we seem to be back on track.

What we would really apppreciate is the feedback of all of you using the COOCs site so that we can gauge what is working, what is not.  Does it look friendly and clear to what COOCs is all about?  Can you find courses easily?  Was registration straightforward?  can you join course without an issue?  Is creating a course something that was free of problems?  Could it be easier?

We want people to help us promote and develop COOCs so please feel free to get in touch with us and let us know your thoughts and how we can help each other.  We can be contacted via this blog or via

See you soon




November 25, 2014 Blog

How do we best use this space

It is great to have a space we can work in and communicate around collective issues.  The Buddypress framework is powerful and enables us to coordinate better than endless threads of emails….

Alex Dunedin

Alex Dunedin


Do you have a few basic pointers about how we organize our thoughts in this digital space ?  It would be quite helpful, to point out some of the basic features or post a video…


Do you like my broody photo ?………. 😉


November 19, 2014 Blog

COOC’s in Action

Alex and I have been hosting free WordPress workshops in Edinburgh, in a space garnered from friendship and mutual appreciation in order to bring knowledge to people. Websites are a big smoke and mirrors fiasco and we have been dispelling all the myths. It’s easy and if you can create a word document you can create a website. It really is that simple and all you need is a good place to launch from and while you don’t know, a place where you won’t get ripped off because you don’t know.

We have now set up four websites for people in the community helping them through those first steps of uncertainty and then watching them take steps with certainty.

It’s teaching in action, it’s COOC’s in action

November 17, 2014 Blog

Why COOCs offer real hope in the MOOC universe



COOCs replace the Massive with the Community, but more than that they replace the insistence of tradition, on hierarchy and on establishment with a re-energising of those long excluded, marginalised and (frankly) bored by the narrowing economic and cultural imperatives of the institutions.

The furore that has accompanied MOOCs over the last 12 months suggested COOCs, the Community version of the Massive, may have chosen a bad time to emerge!  A dBIS report into the ‘maturing of the MOOC’ (September 2013) even makes explicit the coming of age of this most unusual of educational entities.  The debate that seemed perhaps most compelling was the battle between the xMOOC and the cMOOC, the rebel alliance cMOOC promising a meritocratic world of sharing and growth against the dark heart of the institutional empire hoping to confirm its power in ALL areas of learning.

COOCs, for their part, are trying to emerge against much more real, in the way that kitchen sink drama is real, landscapes.  While both cMOOCs and xMOOCS can call on vast resources and the growth of the network with expertise across the globe, COOCs continues to fight to establish tiny incremental changes on an error strewn website, working with course creators that are threatened with redundancy, benefits cuts and other finance related doomsday concerns.  There are courses starting to develop, ideas being generated and new ideas of what we mean by teaching starting to form.  The Popular Education background of COOCS finds more than a general allegiance with those revolutionary fighters for freedom, Myles Horton and Paulo Freire.  We too find that once a course leaves the trodden path of the accreditation route, the classroom and the funders preferred notions of employability and economic advantage, well, you are reliant on new thinking.  It is not enough to say that the education system doesn’t work for all, it is also important to create a way of thinking about the future that is open, creative and optimistic.  The development of COOCs is more than opening up the star professor to a wider populace, it is reawakening the populace to the teaching of itself.  The more the xMOOC suggests that its beneficence is engaging, and the media and the ecology of education ponder what MOOCs mean, the more any alternative for new ways of being start to disintegrate.  Even the future of education remains tarnished by the hierarchical concerns of its past.  MOOCS may not have all the answers, they don’t need to have.  They just need to set markers in the virtual realm that remind anyone daring to trespass on the institutional ownership of learning that they do so in the shadow of the giants – and their shoulders don’t require any footprints on them, thank you very much!

The Popular Education of the EduPunk examples of Jim Groom are exciting and continue to inform the ethos, the energy and the dreams of COOCS.  Like any kitchen sink drama, while the Coronation Street COOCs dowdily emerge amidst the glamour and light of the Dallas-like headlining MOOCS, the threat of being ripped off, embarrassed, ridiculed and ignored is grater with every step down the ladder.  Yet, the salvation, the hope, the dream itself comes from the very purpose of the COOCs ideal itself.  The Community.  The Community may be geographic, it may be built on a shared interest or a set of ideals.  Significantly though, the Community must be able to support itself and create its own ideals and expectations.  While MOOCs have no option but to reassert who the teachers are, and what they should be teaching (even f the format and the cost is currently undergoing change) COOCS need to explore just what is possible with teaching and learning.  Do we actually need teachers at all?  If we develop new communal learning what would it look like? IF technology, knowledge, community and pedagogy can all be radically reformed, what results would we get?

COOCs is not a kitchen sink drama really.  It is not a situated picture of moribund acceptance and a grainy image of the way things have become.  It is a bright possibility, an energy driven opportunity to explore new ways of being – as learners, as teachers, as both.  No limit to exploration exists beyond those limits of people, and people with technology.  Removing the constraints of a hierarchical canon, of a grand narrative, of a curmudgeonly educational government style, losing the emphasis on employability, economic imperatives, the tightened constraints of those that aren’t involved in the teaching or the learning but seem to insist on the way anyone else goes about it.  Without the straitjacket, as we start to wave our arms around, craning our neck up to the sun, rolling our shoulders free of the yolk of a curriculum, what can we do next?  It is not technology that leads us to COOCS, important to note that that too might be what we decide to revisit.  Did Facebook and YouTube emerge as the evidence of a newly digitised planet because of their technological glory?  We think not.  It was their emphasis on sharing, the potential for a common good, a shared awareness and an opportunity for all of us to be included that characterised their appeal.  COOCs too ask for that, a sharing of knowledge, a willingness to explore., a desire to do good.  We don’t need star lecturers, or gold leaf institutions, we need you.  we need each of you.  The folk educators are the future not because the institutions are incapable of reaching everyone, but because they are not interested in everyone, they don’t know everyone and as such they can not be the only option for everyone.  Keri Facer talks of  ’clever optimism’ and ‘stupid optimism’ and avoiding the latter to make meaningful decisions based on what is possible.  What can be clearer that learning is possible within our communities?  Excluded from the institutions and caught in the trap that says this exclusion is their own fault.  While colleges and universities get narrower and narrower in what they offer, they also own the languages of inclusion, of opportunity of growth.  Like Weber’s iron cage, the reduction of choice is linked to the austerity caused by the community as a place of welfare and dependency.  The language of hope and inclusion is owned by the educational elite who promise a brighter future if we stay with them, adhere to their knowledge and recognise their ability.  The cage encompasses even the notion of escape!

COOCs can be used to seek within the community what we want to learn and how we want to learn it.  It is not stupid optimism, or magical thinking as Virginia Eubanks wrote in Digital Dead Ends, it can happen now, it can happen through you.  How will we move in a world of learning and teaching not confined by established roles of teacher and student, of social classes confirmed and exemplified by the world of the institution, by titles and by expectation?  I am looking forward to working on COOCs as they emerge and hope you will join us too.  You have nothing to lose but your chains.



October 13, 2013 Blog