I had decided to enroll in an MOOC through Coursera, a site which hosts online course offerings from 33 different universities. The course I selected was Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application. I opted for this title because I already have a background in this topic and I wanted to learn about MOOCs in a setting where I did not have a great deal of academic pressure on a topic. Unfortunately, the course was a mess from the start, and this blog post accurately describes the experience:
While this experience was far from optimal, it has not soured me on the potential of MOOCs. However, there are several things I learned from the experience:
- Design matters. Taking the time to study and design engaging learning experiences makes a difference in student learning and course satisfaction.
- Make sure your infrastructure can handle the load. Sounds obvious, but that clearly did not happen in this case.
- If you are going to lead a MOOC, you better have a thick skin. Out of 40,000 participants there are bound to be some that are absolutely brutal in their critique of your work.
- While the course design was clearly not strong, there were also many students who had no intention of trying to figure things out on their own. A significant sub-set of those enrolled was not going to use the tools and mechanisms available to make the course work for them. They simply quit. That made me think about what would happen if MOOCs became more accepted as a credit tool. Would students simply drift to the "easiest" MOOC course -- the one that would spoon-feed them the most? If so, how would that practice support innovative education and advancement. It seems to me that some sort of tracking may be needed, especially to track the number of times a student enrolls in a course and then actually completes the course. That would create a larger investment in the process instead of simply giving up at the first sign of difficulty.
- I was anxious to converse with a diverse body of students, including several from other countries (Jamaica, Finland, Saudi Arabia) who were assigned to my discussion group. Alas, our discussions never got off the ground, but that has the potential to be a rich experience.