Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First EdX (classics dept.) course done!

It's been a while, but I have completed the course.  I don't know if EdX considers me a "completer" but I got what I needed from the course ;-)  That said, the course I started back in the spring was The Ancient Greek Hero, offered through EdX (HarvardX in specific).  I had been looking for an EdX course to take so I could evaluate the platform and the pedagogy, but most of the topics really didn't jive with my interests, until this one.

When I started the course in Spring things were busy at work, then I went on vacation, and when I came back the course was over, with me not having done more than half of the readings.  I did take the course textbook (downloadable as a free ePub from the course page), so I took the opportunity at the beach, and on the boat, while on vacation to do some reading.  In addition to the textbook ("slow reading") there was also a free reader with the Iliad, and additional original texts.  This was meant to be "fast reading" but I ended up not reading many of them.  Why?  Because I wanted to take my time with them, not get through them quickly, so I opted to ignore that part of the reading for now.  I guess it didn't impede my progress through the course much.

I have to say that for me this course was much more of a self-paced course, sort of like how I tackled #ioe12 because I was way too late to the game.  That said, even in the weeks prior to my vacation when I was synchronized with the rest of the class, I think that the course really lacked that something "special" to make me really care and engage with my peers. MobiMOOC (2011) had that, so did other MOOCs (cMOOC variety) but through quite a few coursera, and now my first EdX xMOOC I just didn't know why I should engage with others when the book and the videos were sufficient for me.

I have to say that the MOOC did do some things right, and some things just seemed bolted on (I'd like to see a research paper on pedagogy and engagement come out of the data for this course).  One of the things that the course did well was to try to engage the participants through video.  It seemed that the professor paid attention to at least some of the comments on the course, and made reference to them in the course videos - not bad!  Even though I didn't participate, I did feel that someone was paying attention to what was happening in the course and acknowledged it in some sense.

I also think that an actual downloadable course reader, downloadable videos, and audio extracted from the videos were a nice idea.  If one wanted to, they could download the appropriate media each week on a tablet and view it offline.  That said, this option was a bit of a pain, so I didn't exercise it.  It would be nice to streamline this option somehow for tablet users because right now it seems more like a "download this as your archive" type of usage.

The assessments were really a bit off.  You had multiple choice and...multiple choice. The second type of multiple choice (pictured below) depended on a reading passage, then you focused on a specific part and answered a question on it.  The question had 3 components:

  • Reading the entire passage (or not) and clicking "respond to annotation"
  • A textbox to provide a free style response (which seemed to go right into the ether)
  • and, A selection from a list of choices as to which answer...sorry "tag" was best suited.

So, before I realized that I needed to click on "respond to annotation" (several chapters/modules later), I was already losing points, even though my response  (tag selection) was correct. The textbox seemed utterly pointless because I could have pasted in Lorem Ipsum text and it would have accepted it as having typed something thoughtful in.  There were other fail moments with this type of multiple choice assessment, and that is also seen below. The tags vary only by a little, specifically the connecting words between sentences (so, and, but).  I do understand that nuance is important, but when you might be dealing with participants whose native language is not English, these three items read almost the same.  Not the mention that I've come across some assessments where the tag text was 3 of the same, and then you are left wondering if this is a psych experiment :-)  Also, I've come across instances where I picked the right answer, it was marked as wrong, and when I looked at the explanation it told me that what I picked was right, even though it was marked as wrong.  For me it doesn't matter, because I was doing this for fun and my own learning, but if some researcher is looking at this data, they are getting a false picture.  I do have to say, however, that the explanations as to why a specific tag was correct were detailed and quite helpful as a self-check. This part was well done.

Sample free style answer (aka multiple choice)

Test setup fail

Finally, there are some really basic analytics.  What you see below is my performance in the course.  Some answers I got deliberately wrong as I was testing the system, others I legitimately got wrong and I learned something, and others I got wrong because the test apparatus was broken (see above for examples). I have to say that I do like this visualization. It's easy enough to provide, and it gives you a bird's eye view of your "progress" (in some sense) through the course. Now, I guess some of my results are invalid in that this graph doesn't really represent my true progression through the course (i.e. me experimenting and trying to make things break), but I still do think that I would like to benchmark  my own performance against those in the course. I think this would be a really valuable metric to have as a learner.  Maybe the top 10% (or whatever arbitrary number you wish to assign) could be identified and they can act as peer mentors and teachers.  EdX does have meetups in the Boston area, and other areas, so why not tap into that?

My performance in the course (at least what the researchers will see)

So, that was my inaugural EdX experience and experiment.  I did put a lot of MOOC news and punditry on the side while I was doing this, and there aren't any upcoming EdX courses of interest, so I think I will take a break from EdX and return to the MOOC news that's been piling up on my Pocket account.  More on that soon!
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