Creative Playfulness and Convivial Interactions in a Participatory Culture: recent findings and implications for higher education

Sarah Honeychurch & Fiona Patrick – University of Glasgow

Short paper

CLMooc (Connected Learning Massive Open Online Community) is an online community of informal learners who stimulate each other to make digital artefacts and share them publicly with each other. This participatory culture provides a convivial environment which engages learners (who are themselves educators) and encourages them to share existing skills and to learn new ones.

Originally the brainchild of the National Writing Project,* and run to offer a summer course for educators, in 2016 this initiative was adopted by a group of CLMooc members, with the aim of turning it from a course that ran annually over the summer into a community that existed throughout the year. In order to help to “grow” the community we organise and facilitate regular “pop-up” events throughout the year with a strong emphasis on participation and HOMAGO (Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out) (Jenkins et al, 2016) as a way of reinforcing existing social ties and helping to forge new ones.

This presentation will look at CLMooc as having moved beyond being a community of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991) to being an affinity space, i.e. “a place or set of places where people can affiliate with others based primarily on shared activities, interests, and goals” (Gee, 2004, p.67) which exists across various social media “places”. We will show that the informal nature of CLMooc means that participants can take risks that their institutions are loathe to allow them to do – for example to try out new technologies in real learning experiences, or to experiment with novel learning designs without the need to formally assess these first – and to have the freedom to fail without risk of censure. Educators can then bring their successes back into their formal teaching, thus enhancing the student experience without risk to their formal learning and assessment.

We will also present the results of the participatory empirical research that we are conducting with this community, and, by sharing examples of the digital artefacts that members have shared along with discussions with these members about their learning journey, show how engagement with the CLMooc affinity space has enhanced the confidence and competence of CLMooc members. We will end with some suggestions about how others might adopt and adapt this model for their own uses, which will lead to an audience discussion about these suggestions.


Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated Language and Learning: A Critique of Traditional Schooling. New York: Routledge

Jenkins, H., Ito, M., and boyd, d. Participatory culture in a networked era. Polity Press, Cambridge

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge



Connected learning, participatory culture, affinity spaces, community of practice

Relation to the theme

  • engaging, stimulating and challenging learners
  • building staff and student digital capability and confidence