Friday, November 15, 2013

Video Games and Learning MOOC - process throughts

Over the past few weeks I've been dabbling with a course on coursera designed by two professors from UW Wisconsin.  I didn't realize who they were (Squire and Steinkueler) initially, but at the "course" progressed I realized that I had read some of their work before when I was reading about video games and learning.  An added benefit was that there were some guest appearances by Jim Gee, someone who is mentioned quite often in the department I work in (Applied Linguistics at UMass Boston) and whose books on video game learning I've enjoyed in the past.

Since there really wasn't a lot for me to react to while the MOOC was in session I decided to hold off and do one summative post at the end of the MOOC, which just so happens to be this week.

So, the first thing that struck was this insistence that the "M" in MOOC stands for "Massively."  This is just wrong. It's a massive online open course, not a Massively open online course. I know it's a small picky thing, but they do mean different things. Massive and Open are two different words.  So Massive = many people "enroll, and it's Open (whatever value you may ascribe to Open).  Massively Open means something else, like "hey, look at that gaping sinkhole! It's massively open wide! I guess the course could still be Massively open, as in there is no copyright, everything is downloadable, remixable and redistributable, and it's all free. No questions about it. But, this is not the value ascribed to the "mass" part, so let's just get it right - Massive, not Massively.

Now that I've ranted a bit, what was my motivation to join? I was interested in the topic, and I saw Jim Gee's name, someone I've heard about for a few years now as part of my own department's work, as I previously mentioned. I also think that it was motivating not to have to deal with "certificate of completion," tasks like silly little comprehension quizzes and having to work toward contributing to a research project. From the weekly introductions to the course I guess that other participants felt that they were guinea pigs for the instructor's research and they wanted other more "substantive" evaluations of their work.  Personally, I think that contributing to research was much more interesting, and by completing these little assignments it allows participants, who were new to this, to see what is entailed in the process of figuring out what people learn from video games, and how conditions and results of learning are tested in these environments.

One of the data collecting assignments were the Week 1 discussions.  I think that they were really good in that they allowed learners to post something other than text. This was somewhat open ended (with exception of time limit), it allowed people to experiment and post something that discussed issues of week one, but it didn't seem stilted. Even though something different than text was posted, it still leads me to my previous conclusion that discussion boards not that great in MOOC environments.  There were multiple threads per game, and at the end of the week it really was a bit unwieldy to go through more than 60 pages of discussions.  Perhaps grouping discussion by games might work better, or if a topic has already been posted (i.e. game in this case), then you don't let people post on the same topic again.  You encourage people to participate in existing threads about this topic.  This way you don't have zombie threads going around with one or no replies. A discussion forum is useless if no one discusses.  It's nice for data collection, but not for discussion.

Another nice thing was that the instructors got their hands dirty, as much as they could anyway. Even if they can't be right there in the forums, they do acknowledge contributions of participants, especially those who help in the community, in the introductory videos for each week.  It's also interesting to see that they got rid of the "down vote"(or so they said) in threads because people didn't like it.  I'd be interested in seeing research on this, more specifically down-voting, up-voting and effect on participation.

It was also nice to see course creators encourage people to take their materials and use them in their own classes. With the exception of cMOOCs, I don't know if I've come across anyone in a cMOOC saying that their material is OER and encourage others to freely use it.  I know that I like the content, and some of their lectures are pertinent to some courses that I'd like to propose for my own department, so it's nice to see the option there.  I didn't see an easy way to download the material for my own use, so I guess I'll keep looking.

One of the anecdotes shared about kids playing civilization, I think it was in one of the lectures by Squire, reminded me of my high school experience with Bolo and networked Apple LC II on Apple Talk. This was done after school and we regularly had at least four teams of five playing for a few hours after school, along with the head of computer science at the time. There was cooperation among teams, learning the lay of the land, and learning strategy.  For me it was also an opportunity to improve my English since I had just returned from Greece and I needed more practice with the language in a variety of areas.

Finally, what amazed me (and I guess that I shouldn't be surprised) is that in the assignments people just didn't follow directions. For instance there an assignment to do a text analysis and at the end, mention where you got the source text from (what you analyzed), fill out the following info and write a little about why you chose the text and what surprised you
Text resource
The game the text is related to
K1 words: ____%
K2 words: ____%
AWL (academic) words: ___ %
Fry reading level: ___ grade
Many people I saw on the forum just posted their percentages and wrong reading levels, without any other information.  It's like there was no thought process at all in this.  Too bad, because if data in these fora are used for research, it may not be that useful.  Speaking of research I really did like that Squire and Steinkuehler invited people to participate in their research as data crunchers, co-authors, editors and so on.  They haven't figured out how this will work yet, but it's nice to see that such an offer was made.  I think that there is something to this collaborative research, as is evidenced by the work of my colleagues in the MobiMOOC Research Team, so I may be contacting them to see how I can help.

If you participated in this MOOC, what did you think?

blog comments powered by Disqus