|Apple's Clarus the cowdog;|
and his "moof" 'bark
2013, other than it being the year of the Anti-MOOC (according to some) was really the year of the xMOOC for me. I participated in a lot of xMOOCs and got to see how different organizations had different takes on how to approach courses that are online and have, potentially, a large amount of participants. Most of my MOOC experiences were coursera based (it seems like they are at the top of the hill at the moment), but I did expand my horizons by taking a course on EdX on the Ancient Greek Hero, a Harvard course, and a couple of courses through the Virtual Linguistics Campus which are courses offered through the Philipps-Universität Marburg. The VLC, interestingly enough got an award for Excellency in Higher Education for 2013, which makes me wonder how MOOCs fit into that award.
The thing with all of these three MOOC providers is that they all had pretty much the same formula: view videos, take some quizzes, and maybe participate in discussions. In coursera I did the bare minimum for discussions, in edX I did none, and in the VLC I basically participated for troubleshooting purposes. This just brings me back to the notion of engagement, and how MOOCs, done at the institutional level, really fail to engage. The VLC folks I'll give a pass to for one reason: it seems to me that the european tradition centers around mostly lecture, so in essence the VLC folks made their paid materials open-access and continued on with the same approach as they had in the past in their traditional courses. With coursera and edx, being in the US, while we come from that lecture tradition, we do tend to change things around and attempt new things to engage our learners. It seems wrong to me to replicate that lecture "feel" in an online course, and by extension in a MOOC. We need to do something better in order to engage the learner.
Speaking of engagement, alternative credentialing may be the way to get some of this engagement happening. For example, in the Mozilla Open Badges MOOC that I took part in last fall, there were badges that marked each step of the process. Participants wrote up activities each week, if they passed, they got a badge, and if they didn't they got feedback and were encouraged to submit again with changes, taking a queue from mastery learning. That said, even though I racked up the badges, I wasn't as active in the LMS forums because I really didn't see as much value. The interaction seemed quite didactic in nature, top down, and the forums weren't all that useful. When the content is, to some extent user generated, and learners read and react to things posted by the facilitators, and then learners respond to other learners, remix and redistribute, that's when activity becomes more noticeable. Or, as was the case with FSLT12, if there is some shared understanding and a common goal, then people feel more engaged and want to participate in forums. In the Open Badges MOOC I didn't really see that shared goal as much, despite the best efforts of the organizers :) This just goes to show that you can design a perfectly good course, but you are still tied to whoever signs up and participates in it.
It is sad to say that my only cMOOC was OLDS MOOC. There should have been more, where there more that I didn't see? Also, OLDS MOOC wasn't really a "traditional" cMOOC in a sense, but rather, I think, that it was retroactively named a pMOOC. I actually really liked OLDS MOOC and I got a few things that I want to fold into the classes that I teach. I want to be on the lookout for cMOOCs for next year so I don't miss any good opportunities :)
Speaking of next year: I've decided to give Udacity another try. I have signed up for a course on statistics (a refresher for me), and a course on the design of everyday things. I liked the book and wanted to see what the author had to say. It seems that both are self-paced eLearning. More on that as I get through the courses. I have also signed up for two FutureLearn courses to see what's up there. I signed up for a Corpus Linguistics Course and a course called "The mind is flat: the shocking shallowness of human psychology." I am quite curious not just about the content, but also about seeing another European Approach the MOOC. I haven't seen anything on edX or Canvas.net yet that has really piqued my interest from a content perspective. Maybe the course on Alexander the Great on edX could be a good candidate, but I have so many things on my plate that it would probably be a bad idea to take this on during the Spring semester. Long story short, I am waiting for that singularity of innovation to occur (or have we reached the slog phase of the MOOC?)
As an aside, I am looking for an acronym, relating to MOOCs, that spells MOOF (that way I can use the Clarus icon more often ;-). Massive Open Online Fun? Have ideas? Leave a comment!