Tuesday, October 22, 2013

1 week, 3 completed MOOCs, 1 MOOC Experience Reflection

Online Games & Narrative Course Logo
Last summer, when I signed up for these things, I really didn't  keep proper timing of the courses I signed up for, because I was signed up for three concurrent MOOCs, while working a full time job, and messing around with other interesting things (MOOC related).  In any case, after several PACKED weeks, three MOOCs are done, and I have some thoughts about MOOC design and MOOC Process to go along with them from my own personal experiences.

The first MOOC was on Coursera, and it was Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative with Jay Clayton  of Vanderbilt University. The thing that attracted me to this course was the aspect of online gaming and how it tied into other media. The theme was Lord of the Rings, which I am sort of lukewarm about. It's fine, but it's not the type of literature, or game for that matter, that I would spend a ton of time on.  The nice thing about the course was that the people talking about the materials were real geeks about it.  The material wasn't dry, and the enthusiasm about the subject really came alive on the screen (at least for me).  The course did fall a bit short of me in the assessment area.  I did partake in the quizzes, which were good enough for formative assessment, in other words it helped me make sure I was on the right track, but beyond that, I really didn't have an incentive to really participate in the forums. The combination of being a bit "m'eh" about the subject and the fact that forums in MOOCs just don't work that well made me avoid the forums for this course.  The other thing that was a bit of an eyebrow raiser was the "distinction track" of the course.  Now that I have seen all three peer-reviewed assignments, I really don't see the distinctiveness of the distinction track.  Yes, it requires more work, but at the end of the day it's peer reviewed, and that peer reviewer grade doesn't necessarily do justice to evaluate any work I would have contributed. The two redeeming thing about the Distinction Track assignments was that they (1) didn't limit the amount of words you could use for text-submissions, and (2) you could actually use a variety of media (papers, game-making, videos) to submit your work.  As an assignment it was interesting, as an evaluation of learning it was not.

The second MOOC was on Coursesites, and you this was the Mozilla Open Badges MOOC that you've seen me write about on this blog. This MOOC had weekly live streamed sessions (as well as recordings from them), and Open Labs for badges.  In addition there were discussions forums and weekly challenge assignments that could award you badges. I have to say, that the awarding of badges was motivational for me because the assignments required enough time and thought, that I don't know if I would have bothered to put pen to paper to hash out some ideas if there wasn't some external award for these.  Now, this is part of my PhD brainstorm, so I would have written something in my PhD ideas notebook, but I wouldn't necessarily have gone into this amount of detail.

So, as far as process for this MOOC:  I liked the live sessions. It kept a degree or regularity in the course that allowed me to attend to these live videos on Mondays, think about the content for a few days, jot down some notes, and on Saturdays write-up a little something for the weekly challenge and submit it.   The challenges were interesting, but some were a bit out of my domain, so I used some assumptions to complete them.  Probably 1/3 of what I submitted was returned to me for improvement, and I resubmitted it.  I actually got feedback on what I submitted which was awesome.  This was something that continued my motivation to participate in the MOOC.  As far as discussion forums go....well, I did make an attempt to participate in the forums, but I didn't participate as much as I had intended to. The nice thing is that there were separate areas (using the Groups tool) to discuss Badges in different contexts, such as Badges for MOOCs or Badges for Higher Ed courses. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be many participants in the MOOC (or at least in some groups), so while the "intimate" feeling was nice, it also meant that it didn't really fit with the type of participation I wanted,which was 70% read, 30% write.  All things considered, this wasn't bad, and the discussions made much more sense.  Still not optimal, but good enough.

Finally, the last MOOC, that in theory is concluding this week, but I am already done with, is the MOOC on Pragmatics at the Virtual Linguistics Campus.  My motivation here was to fill in some knowledge from the time that I took an introduction to linguistics course and we only did a few weeks on Pragmatics.  The course, like before was set-up like a self-paced eLearning course, with automated testing, self-paced multimedia, and lectures.  Everything was available at the beginning of the course, so there was no need to wait until someone released a new module for you.

This MOOC was a bit of a hit or miss. I think I definitely enjoyed the Phonetics and Transcription MOOC that they had last spring more than I did this one.  The recorded lectures were fine, and the self-paced eLearning materials were fine as well.  There seemed to be less attention given to some of the assessments (multiple choice quizzes) this time in that some assessments in some chapters were just one question! If you get it right, you pass the module with 100%.  The other issue was that learner evaluations in Module X references things that learners would learn in Module X+3, so some people were confused by this.  Luckily I was not since I had already covered some of this through my Master's in Applied Linguistics. This seems like an oversight, but attention to those finer details is something that, for me, can make or break a MOOC.

Discussions were used mostly as a way to troubleshoot, for me anyway, even though some participants used it as a way to disambiguate, especially in those evaluations from Module X where things from Module X+3 were mentioned and taken as previous knowledge. Just like the Spring Phonetics & Transcription course, I didn't spend a lot of time in the forum. The other thing that was different this time around was the lack of reading materials.  Last spring, each week, there was a scan from a book chapter (different books each time). This was pretty nice because each week, in addition to the self-paced eLearning materials, I read something from a book. This year, they cut that out, presumably for copyright reasons. In either case, the course this time around seemed more bare.  It lacked a level of detail that I had come to expect.

Finally, it's still left to be seen what the Statement of Participation looks like, but I hope that they didn't overlook design issues because they were looking to make some money from certified, graded, Certificates of Participation.  Last spring, the certificate of participation listed all modules taken, and the final percentage grade.  This year, it seems that you will need to pay to get that level or reporting (and have your grade registered at the University of Marburg), and people who don't pay just get a Coursera-style certificate of participation.  Let's wait and see.

I am now enrolled in some other MOOCs. Let's see how those pan out.  In the mean-time, back to reading about MOOCs in the press, and writing more about them.
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