Thursday, November 29, 2012

MOOC Exploration continues, with the Canvas Network

One of my friends and colleague works for Canvas now, and we happened to be at the same NERCOMP workshop when news of the Canvas Network hit the wires.  Honestly, I've been so MOOCed out recently with all the MOOC coverate and punditry that it's not easy to keep up with all MOOCs all the time. And, to be honest, if you want to really assess a MOOC strategy, my feeling is that you need to be a student in that MOOC in order to really gauge what's going on. I have just started saving all MOOC related articles, opinion columns and blogs (that are more than 1 or 2 paragraphs) to PDF so I can go through them more leasurly once I am done with my current research projects (and maybe something can come out of those that is more scholarly than just a "I read them" note on my blog)

That said, one of my twitter connections reminded me of the Canvas Network and i gave it a quick look. There aren't that many courses on it just yet (or it didn't seem so anyway) but I signed up for a couple of interesting courses, Gender through Comic Books, Game Design Concepts, and David Wiley's Intro to Openness Education. Now, as far as I am concerned, I completed (albeit a bit late) #ioe12 which David Wiley offered on a WordPress setup, so I don't plan on being really active in Wiley's course, but I am curious to see what the differences are between the course I took, and the one on the Canvas Network.

Two innovations that I see (and like!) already in Canvas is exemplefied by this course banner:


This course banner gives potential students a lot of information about the format of the course before they actually sign up. This course lets you know in advance of mature content, that a bok is required, that there are lectures, and how students are expected to participate.  Another course I looked at specifically indicated that there is no possibility of obtaining a certificate of completion.

Now, some students will sign up for these courses regardless of this info and how a course is delivered, but some students need this information ahead of time.  I think it's important to provide this ahead of time in order to help students make the right choices for the courses they sign up for.

The other nice innovation is the "keep me posted" button.  For all the courses I signed up for, I used the "keep me posted" button.  Why? Because I am not sure I want to enroll just yet, but I am interested! What I want is more information about the course as it becomes available, and I can register for the course when the course opens up if I still want to.

I think that these two innovations can go a long way to prevent this drop-out-angst that many in Higher Education, especially the people who dislike MOOCs, but don't know much about them, by not forcing people who are just intersted in course information from signing up for the course.  If I sign up for the course, and there is no penalty for not continuing with the course, why would I do extra work to "unenroll" from the course? Then, I look like a person who dropped out, and those massive drop out rates are what scare people.

Well,  as I've said and written before, we need to reframe our discussion around drop-out rates, because MOOCs are not traditional courses and that makes a huge difference. Even when we reframe the discussion, if you provide avenues for people to get information about a course without enrolling in it, you are also getting valuable information about how many people are interested in a course, versus how many actually enrolled.  And, from those enrolled, if they don't complete the course, you can then find out why. This type of data collection and analysis is important if we are going to make cogent decisions on MOOCs, their future, and how to better design for them.
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