FOE MOOC Notes

Notes on my “Fundamentals of Online Education” MOOC experience

1/29/13

The course started yesterday and an email arrived.  The email was not an introduction to the course per se, nor instructions for getting started, but rather an apology for the technical glitches that were, unbeknownst to me, already occurring with the hundreds (thousands?) of students already started.  It seems that the google doc that the instructor had intended to use to create groups in the course sort of blew up when multiple authors began to delete rows and columns.  Perhaps not the right tool choice for the task, but I can understand that these things happen on the first iteration of a course.  What was actually more surprising was that the first email was an apology rather than an introduction.  Several subsequent email were also apologetic and corrective.  None of these included a link to the course itself.  Rough start here…

1/30/13

I looked at the mechanism for joining a group.  Holy smokes are there a lot of groups.  And a lot of people.  And a lot of postings.  I teach online and I intentionally have a large group for the first discussion, usually about 20-25 participants (the whole class).  When the students in this course experience the difference between a group of 25 and a group of 5-8 there is a virtual, collective sigh of relief.  It seems that the myriad “small” groups in the MOOC course are all as large as the largest group discussion in my course.  I’m feeling overwhelmed and I have not even started the course itself.

1/31/13

More interesting developments in the course.  The formation of groups through Google Docs led to a lot confusion.  So they created a new video to help address the confusion.  The instructor did not, however, remove the original video that led to all the confusion.  To add to this gaff, the instructor resent the link to the incorrect instructions to everyone this morning.  I managed to find the correct video link despite the misdirection provided by the email.  The other funny bit is that the groups are not actually groups in a traditional sense (i.e. unit that exclude other participants).  The groups are just discussion threads that you “join” by posting to them.  Not sure how this approach is meant to support the goal of limiting participation to a viable level, as even groups of 20-25 can be overwhelming in my experience. Some of these groups have more than 100 participants.  The instruction is “don’t join these”.  But wouldn’t it make more sense to simply prevent this with a technical solution?  Real groups with actual group functionality would accomplish that goal…

2/1/13

Just took the first quiz.  It reflects a banking theory of learning trivia without regard to application of learning or significant, deep thinking.  This is not college level learning, nor does it seem possible to achieve college level learning with assessments like this one.  A 10 question multiple choice test is too superficial and the questions were pretty random (Jerome Bruner was famous for? – A) Learn by doing -  it’s not even grammatically correct.)  If this is MOOC quality we are in trouble…

2/3/13

The course abruptly ended with an email today.  It must have been very difficult for the instructor to try to continue to repair the issues with 40,000 students participating.  This is a hard lesson to learn I imagine – MOOC design and traditional online course design are very different.  I don’t think they were ready for the amplification of troubles and the cascading effects of what might be a minor issue in a traditional online course. There will be quite a few disappointed students.  I have had technical glitches and have made poor design choices in the first run of many online courses over the years.  But I never had to endure the crash and burn of a course that was taught in the open with so many witnesses.  My sympathies are with the instructor…

(Peter Shea – @pshea99 on twitter)

http://www.albany.edu/etap/Peter_Shea.php

 

28 Responses to FOE MOOC Notes

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  4. Mary says:

    I wanted to see if I could bring anything new to my courses and workshops. We are not ready for courses of that size. I’m sure this is a huge disappointment to the researchers on this project.

    • admin says:

      Hi Mary – yes, I think this is a valuable lesson for many of us. I was thinking about putting together a MOOC on a new area of interest for our college. I have now seem that its a lot more complex than I had imagined. As I noted, small troubles in a traditional online course of 25-30 are simply amplified by orders of magnitude in a MOOC. And these would have been managed behind closed doors if it was a traditional course. Teaching in the open can be very tough it seems to me, especially on this topic…

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  7. Hope Campbell says:

    The organization of the course was not scalable. This is a huge and valuable lesson. I hope other MOOC developers learn from this disaster.
    When I received my notice to sign up for a group in Google Docs, I immediately knew there would be issues. And there were.
    The PowerPoint slide and audio lecture were fine. It began with a quick review of learning theories. But, finding my way around the course was impossible. I would vote it the worst organized course I’ve ever taken.
    MA in Educational Technology; 17 years teaching high school; 20 years instructional designer; 4 years online faculty for graduate courses. I was taking the course to learn about MOOCs. I did learn a lot. About how not to organize a MOOC.

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