MOOCs Have a Long Way To Go

My second MOOC is nearing completion, I’m in the final week. This is my second experience in a MOOC and I’ve taken different approaches this time around.

As with the current MOOC, my first one was also on the Coursera platform, both from the same school (Wharton). Gamification was my first experience and it was a good course. It was well put together, but as with all MOOCs, had its failings.

My largest problem was in the way I approached the course. It was my first, and I was inexperienced about how to get the most from the experience.

I felt isolated during the six week course. There were no good opportunities for reflection or interaction required in the course. Also, the forum to communicate with other classmates was overwhelming at best.

Inside a Harvard Business School classroom

Virtual Classes

I’m not inexperienced in participating in the OC part of it either (online course), just in the M and O parts (massive and open). My Master’s program was remote, about 400 miles from the school I visited twice during the two year program.

Why was my Master’s program so much more successful than any MOOC?

To begin, it was a cohort of about 26 students allowing us to become a close group.

One regular activity made the program more successful than any MOOC. The cohort reflected on the reading and wrote a post answering a few questions presented by the professor.

The part that made this even more successful than just reflection? We read at least two other posts and responded. Not only did we reflect on the material, we also saw the material from a different point of view and discussed it with others.

Many times the conversation led beyond the assignment, and to valuable and thoughtful interactions.

This would be a difficult activity for a MOOC, but not impossible. The biggest problem would be that overwhelming feeling you get in a forum for 100,000+ people.

If everyone was to write one post and respond to two others, the risk of it overwhelming the student would be more limited. A well defined goal by the professor would ease most negative feelings.

The forums are currently overwhelming and have no defined goal, leading to no clear path to use them. It’s a sea of posts.

So, how have I been able to more effectively participate in my Marketing MOOC? Early in the course I was invited to a G+ Community with much smaller numbers than the course itself. I made it a point to participate during the early parts of the course.

As the course has continued, I’ve been participating a bit less, but it got me through those early stages of waning motivation. Once I was six weeks into the course, it wasn’t an option to drop it, and I haven’t.

Peering down the final stretch of the course, I’m one short (late) week away from gaining my second certificate of completion from Coursera.

MOOC Graveyard

I’ve signed up for many courses which I’ve never completed. My most recent course was statistics. I made it through just less than two weeks before feeling I was in too deep and dropping it. To say statistics wasn’t beneficial to me is completely wrong though. It gave me the opportunity to get my feet wet, experiment in the material a bit to see if it was for me. Most importantly, it gave me a trial run to see what statistics was all about, and if the teacher was to my liking.

Another one of my failed attempts was a course I signed up for and never went to the first class. I never got a notice the course had begun. I signed up weeks in advance, forgot about it, then half way through the course realized I had signed up. I don’t know how it happened and at this point don’t even remember what course it was.

The Future of MOOCs

They’ll always have a place in the education system, but  they’ll never replace entrenched institutions.

There’s a long way to go before they reach their pinnacle. MOOCs also have some exploration to do before they reach successful pedagogical methods that work for their delivery medium.

Every few months I’ll be checking if there are any interesting courses to take, and this one won’t be my last.

As of right now I’m waiting to take the Coursera course “Understanding Media by Understanding Google”. I’ll be waiting for a bit as it’s still in progress, so I’ll catch the next one in several months.

Call To Action

If you’re going to participate in a MOOC, make it count. Don’t rely on the larger student population to reflect and discuss topics with. Find a small weekly study group, a partner, or even a small community. You will be held more accountable for completing the course, and you will learn more.