One of the requirements for the PGCE in Technology Enhanced Learning is that I blog about several topics involving Education Technology and this is my first post of this series.
Nearly everybody involved in education has already heard about Moocs (Massive Open Online Courses). They are offered not only by universities internationally but also from various other educational Institutions. The most popular providers are Coursera, Khan Academy, Udacity, EdEX and FutureLearn. Generally speaking, a lot of the most famous Universities all over the world offer them now .
Like most of my colleagues, I heard about Moocs about 3 years ago and decided to give it a try and look into the possibility of attending one or more. The first one was a total failure because even though I registered, i never even bothered to attend. Yet, about a year after that first attempt, I did commit to completing a Mooc and six months after I finished the first one, I completed a second one, too, both on the same subject (Art and ESL). Before attending any of them though, I did a little research and this was what I came up with.
Why are they so popular?
- You only need a reliable internet connection and some free time to dedicate
- The majority of them are free (if you want, you can pay an extra fee – only a small amount, normally around 30 to 40 dollars – and receive a “Verified Certificate” that securely links the assessment to the student)
- There are thousands of courses from across the world available
- There is a huge variety of subjects to choose from (mathematics, biology, computing, business marketing, education, art, etc.) and it keeps growing
- There are no real requirements for anyone to attend a course like the ones that exist in formal education
- A lot of the Universities organizing Moocs are trying to make them count as credit toward a higher education award, like COURSERA’s Moocs, for example (Hammods, 2013).
- Skepticists claim it is a delusion to believe the masses can be educated in this way, mainly because of lack of research about how students learn in massive open online platforms (Sharma, 2013)
- There are high dropout rates (Stein, 2013).
- Even though Moocs are supposed to be reaching poor and uneducated people, the ones actually taking Moocs do not actually fall in this category (Mazoue, 2013)
My own experience and why it was successful
Why did I complete mine then and then went on for a second one, too? I think the main reason was that the Moocs I finally attended in full were courses I was really interested in. MOMA (the museum of Modern Art in N.York) was the provider. MOMA had already started organizing these courses in N.York, they had great success and decided it was time they targeted a more global audience. The truth is that I would have even gone to N.York to attend these courses! And I had applied, in the first place. That was before the Moocs. But the number of participants was limited at the time (only 70 people), and they only accepted people from the States. So, once they announced the same course would be offered in a Mooc, I grabbed the opportunity!
Still, it could have been a disappointment for various reasons: a new platform, distance education, too many participants, not formal education, not receiving any credits for it. I can go on and on… What, in fact, made a difference was the fact that I enjoyed the way they had organized it, at least most of it. Why?
First of all, each week a new medium was introduced : the first 2 weeks there were video presentations , readings, 1-2 topics for discussion on the forum and a short quiz for the readings. The third week, the videos became more practical and the questions on the forum more challenging. Also, a google hangout was introduced where all the participants could take part in the discussion or watch it asynchronously. The fourth week, there were discussions about the final project. Generally, we were encouraged starting from the first week to interact with the other participants (there must have been over 20.000 enrolled in the course). Our interaction with the other participants also counted towards our final mark. Finally, our projects were posted on the forum the 5th week and were peer reviewed by 3 other participants who had to evaluate each of the projects based on 3-5 specific criteria which appeared on the evaluation page . The projects we had to review were anonymous and each evaluator was chosen randomly. It was the web system that decided which projects each of us would evaluate in an attempt to ensure objectivity.
Even though the truth is that I did not make any connections or acquaintances, I truly enjoyed the 2 Moocs and I would definitely come back for more. The way of organization appealed to me, I was encouraged to participate, the material was relevant and the presentations were excellent! Everything made sense! To ensure I would be more dedicated, I also signed up for a signature track certificate, which means that I also paid a small amount of money for it. It did motivate me more… But it is not obligatory. If you do not pay for a verified certificate, you do not have to complete the final project necessarily. But this also gives more freedom to anyone who just wants to attend a Mooc without being too much involved.
On the other hand, there were some downsides. If you are expecting a more direct and prompt communication with/from the organizers, then it is most probable this is not going to happen! Sometimes, the participants can be thousands and thousands. It is really difficult to answer every single person promptly, especially because of the huge numbers of participants. The peer review also might mean that a lot of people might end up dissatisfied. The participants come from various academic and professional backgrounds so their judgement might be questionable. Not to mention that some people might not consider the evaluation a serious commitment from their part (so they might award a mark without all the necessary consideration) and again their objectivity might be questionable.
All in all, this was a very positive experience. I honestly believe that these particular Moocs were as effective, if not more so, than any traditional classroom teaching (Glance et al., 2013). Yet, when later I tried to follow another Mooc which proved to be much much less well planned, more time consuming and a bit confusing, I just quit. Just like that! Yet, isn’t there here a positive side, too? You will only commit to something that you really find interesting. These Moocs target a wider audience so they are flexible, not very academic and as long as they are well planned, to the point, and ensure interaction, they can be very enjoyable and practical!
- Glance, D.G. & Forsey D. & Riley M.(2013). The pedagogical foundations of massive open online courses. First Monday, Volume 18, Number 5. Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4350/3673
- Hammods, W. (2013). MOOCs for credit?. Retrieved from http://blog.universitiesuk.ac.uk/2013/02/14/moocs-for-credit/
- Mazoue, J.G. (2013). Five Myths about MOOCs. Educase Review, Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/five-myths-about-moocs
- Sharma, G. (2013). A MOOC Delusion: Why Visions to Educate the World Are Absurd. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/worldwise/a-mooc-delusion-why-visions-to-educate-the-world-are-absurd/32599
- Stein, K. (2013). Penn GSE Study Shows MOOCS Have Relatively few active users, with only a few persisting to course end. Retrieved from http://www.gse.upenn.edu/pressroom/press-releases/2013/12/penn-gse-study-shows-moocs-have-relatively-few-active-users-only-few-persisti