Monday, March 3, 2014

After Action Report: One more coursera from Amsterdam down; first Miriada complete. What just happened?

Last week was the last formal week of #rhizo14.  Even though we crazy lunatics have taken over Dave's P2PU course site and are continuing the course on our own (for now), life goes on and other MOOCs start and finish.  This week was the week I completed the Introduction to Communication Science from the University of Amsterdam, and the course Diseño, Organización y Evaluación de videojuegos y gamificación (design, organization, and evaluation of video games, and gamification)from the Universidad Europea, using the Miriadax platform. The former was taught in English, using the all too familiar Coursera model, while the latter was taught presented entirely in Spanish (with one or two interviews in English). The Communications course isn't technically over, next week in the final week, but the final exam was this week.  Since I am done with both, I think it's good to have a little post-mortem analysis.

Coursera - Intro to Communication

The novelty that got me into this course on coursera was the fact that it was presented from someone from the University of Amsterdam.  I've seen xMOOCs from a (small) variety of US schools, so I wanted to see what some of the European schools were doing.  Of course, I was interested in the topic and I wanted to learn more about it.  I had a suspicion that having gone through an MA in Applied Linguistics I would know some of this stuff, but I wanted to fill in some gaps.  Sadly, there was little innovation in the course.  The course still follows the standard coursera practice of video presentations and multiple choice quizzes after each module.  I did like the fact that the characters on screen were (or appeared to be) hand-drawn but I really just had the videos on a small window while doing other things.

There is a final exam in the class, which I did while watching television.  It was 100 questions, and I took my time with it.  I just wanted to see how well I did in the multiple choice exam while I wasn't in a quiet environment like my office.  I guess we will find out next week when the exam closes and grades are released.

That said, there are two things of interest, from a procedural point of view, in this MOOC.  First, the MOOC is scheduled for 8 weeks, but only five weeks had content created by the MOOC team.  Week 6 was a week where learners submitted questions and the instructor talked about them. Week 7 was all about the final exam but no new content, and week 8 (this coming week) is going to be a look behind the scenes on how this MOOC was created.  I am actually quite curious to see what they present and how they went about to create their MOOC.

The main issue with coursera, at this point, is that I am just used to the same old thing, and it's getting kinda boring.  If the lecture videos aren't engaging, there is nothing redeeming or new to explore about the platform.

Miriadax - Videojuegos

The other course that I just completed (and got my certificate moments ago) was a course on video games on MiriadaX,  My spoken Spanish is quite rudimentary.  I taught myself Spanish after I studied French and Italian and it was quite easy to pick up, at least in written form.  I decided to join MiriadaX in order to try them out for a presentation I was doing on MOOCs for my local Educause affiliate.  I didn't just want to join any course, I wanted to join a course with a topic I was interested in.

So, let me start off with what I did NOT like.  MiriadaX has copied the worst parts of the US-based xMOOC platforms. The course was a series of videos, followed by multiple choice tests. Now, if I were a native speaker of Spanish, I would most likely experience xMOOC fatigue by participating in this course, and the Alexander the Great Course (edX) and the Communication course (coursera above). But, since I am not a native speaker, the multiple choice tests and the videos actually served a dual purpose.  They both served up content about to topic at hand and they served as a way for me to get back into the language!

The one thing that I would really want to improve in this course, as a language learner, is some real closed captioning! For the most part I was able to understand what was said, and after my ears adjusted I was (sort of) OK.  But, when it came time to listed to the interviews I had hard time with some of the accents. It was clear that they had guest speakers (interviewees) from a variety of Spanish speaking countries and I was not familiar with all the accents and cadences.  The automatic transcription on YouTube was of no help because it routinely mistranscribed what the people were saying.  I know this because I saw the transcription make errors on things I know I heard correctly (and the transcriptions made no sense).

In terms of completion, I was able to get 90% there since the majority of the course was multiple choice comprehension tests. Had I done the the peer review project I could have gotten a "perfect score" - but my Spanish isn't up to that level yet.  I wonder if I did mine in English what would my peer reviewers say.  Hmmmm.  something to test out in the future.  One interesting about this course was a pre-test before the first module.  I don't know what they did with the data they collected, but it would be interesting to see how this, along with actual performance in the course, says about learning in MOOCs.  Speaking of MC tests, on the one hand they did give me many chances at getting the right answer (so mastery grading, I suppose), but I was never really given any feedback on why I got things wrong.  This seems like an area that the course design can improve on. Finally, I did like that the creator of the MOOC had put together a small text-based packet at the end of each module recapping everything. This was pretty easy, from a language learner perspective, to use since I didn't have to worry about accents I didn't recognize :-)

From a platform perspective, there are some nice things in the MiriadaX platform that I like, and I think other xMOOC platforms should maybe steal!  The first thing I liked was this concept of  Karma Points. If you participate in the forums, you can earn Karma Points from your fellow classmates (or instructor as well?) for being active in the forum and contributing to the continued well being of the course.

There are also Badges for completing social tasks on the platform.  My guess would be that these can also be tied into participation in the forums, in peer review, and so on. Finally, when you complete a course you get both a badge and a certificate for completion of course. The badge can be sent to your Mozilla Backpack, and the certificate you can print out. Thus, covering both ends of the credentialing.

Anyone else have examples of platforms other than Coursera, Udacity and EdX?  Curious to see what other platforms do.  What do you think of foreign language MOOCs as a way to improve your language skills?
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