This blog was started as my reflections on the 2011 Change MOOC. It is now an on going journal of my thoughts on Higher Education, specifically teaching Biology.

Monday, August 13, 2012


When I hear the Good/Bad discussion, this is the image that comes to mind.  Have gone through a number of MOOCs over the past two years, both as lurker and active participant, there are some likes and dislikes I can identify.

1.  I like to have conversations with other participants.  If the MOOC facilitators start talking at me, then I'm not likely to stay.  When I sign up for a MOOC, I'm not neccessarily looking for a "class" in discipline X.  What I'm generally looking for is connection to an ever widening community of people interested in new models of learning.  Since I have a tendency to become a hermit when I focus on a problem, MOOCs and other discussion help provide a touchstone and a group willing to bounce around ideas (or even tell me when I'm going the wrong direction).

Being part of a MOOC where the facilitator gets in the way...well that becomes a problem.  Example:  When the facilitator becomes the dominant voice of the MOOC.

2.  A central repository of objects, such as blogs, that can be reviewed and reflected upon.  This requires some web framework or system, but provides the participant a place to go to just reflect on what is going on across the MOOC.  If I have to go to four different sites just to keep up with the main thought lines of the MOOC, then I'm going to go to take what I can and my own way. 

As a clarification:  we all make our own paths through a MOOC, and that is one of the strengths of a MOOC.  If the framework though does not support building that path, and instead it is just a jumble of various tools being used, then you're looking at building your path through a briar patch (most likely getting stuck or lost).

One very important element I've found in what I call good MOOCs is that there is a repository where I can go and scan through things looking for posts/tweets/discussion that inspire me.  I can find and follow central threads, or what I've come to call the thought lines of the MOOC.  Fishing for tought lines is a pain, as is trying to tease them out of multiple disconnected tools.  (The take home message:  you need connected tools).

3.  Time:  Change 11 was one of my favorite MOOCs, but it went on for a long time.  My life changed, the semester changes, and I started a number of projects.  As a result, I went into lurker mode in the MOOC.  While I can see why people may like a long duration MOOC, I myself like MOOCs that are about two-three months in length.  It gives you time to get your feet wet and really get involved.  It also provides more opportunities to actually build networks. 

While I like what I've seen and gotten from #MOOCMOOC, I have to say it feels like a speed dating session.  I can barely remember what I commented on today.  There are advantages to this (you see and do very quickly, and there is very little chance of burning out as the weeks drag on), but there are disadvantages (namely going so fast you're not sure what you've done). 

4.  Newsletters:  Having daily contact with the MOOC is essential and inspiring.  Having something in my email box to remind me about a topic, or better yet, showing me some important threads, is amazingly helpful.  Getting an admin note with no content, not so inspiring.  With that said, having 10+ messages every day (or every hour in one case) is not so great (I really had to change my notifications on that one).  With no newsletters, I feel a little left on my own.  With 10+ coming from the facilitator, I feel harassed. 

One thing that needs to be emphasized, is that the newsletters are most helpful when it has content or links that help you bring the previous day/week content into focus.

If you've read my previous posts, you may have seen that I feel that everyone can adapt the foundations of MOOCs to their own situations and audience.  Most of my courses are for undergraduates, and as such, they are not ready for what is seen by many as a MOOC (they are not ready to self-organize).  My comments here are a reflection of what I like when I join a MOOC.  What I do in my classes is different because my audience is different.  If I were to do an open course dealing with an audience use to self-actualized learning (what we're doing in #MOOCMOOC), then my interactions and framework would be different.

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