Much Ado About MOOC's

MOOCs platforms.jpg (credit to Curtin University, link in References)

Perhaps you've heard some of the hype surrounding MOOC's (Massive Open Online Courses)*.  As the name suggests, it is indeed MASSIVE.  The New York Times made 2012 "The Year of the MOOC" so I guess I'm a little late to the party since it's 2013 and they are just now on my educational radar.  Be that as it may, I decided to see for myself what they are all about.  Unlike, uh, "old" online education, which I tried out from the teacher's perspective about *gasp* 12 years ago when I created my first online course, I decided to test MOOCs from the student perspective.  So, I enrolled in a sparkling and rather varied collection of courses this year.  Here's part of my current list:

Current list of my MOOC courses.

I admit that the hoopla last summer at UVA (over President Sullivan's dismissal and reinstatement involving, in part, MOOCs) is what really motivated me to see what all the fuss was about.  As a proud Wahoo (Curry '97), I read with interest about the "new plans" described in my alumni magazine for UVA to enter the world of MOOCs with Coursera (one of the platforms shown in my opening graphic). Yes, you will notice that Lou's course is on my list above - me and over 20,000 more people from all over the world!

Like the others who've jumped on this gigantic bandwagon with me, I found that "enrolling" was amazingly simple:  one click! I also found the sheer number of offerings staggering - I scrolled for at least 15 pages and was nowhere near the end.  I signed up for things I have never taken before but, based on the course descriptions, felt I had the necessary prerequisite knowledge to be successful.

I am now an official MOOC'er of about six weeks.  I've completed one course and will finish another one next week.  My assessment? I'd give MOOCs a C- overall.  Summary:

  • The quality varied widely even in my small sample size
  • Holistically, I have had equal parts satisfaction and frustration
  • In one class, I felt I've actually learned things while in two others, I've been lost and frustrated
  • I think the "forums" (discussion boards for student-student and student-staff interaction) are poorly designed and I found them largely unhelpful
  • Some teachers utilized the advantages that the technology provided, while others simply created fancier-recorded versions of their old lectures in front of the blackboard

I may offer additional details in future blog posts if you let me know you're interested.  For the record, the UVA course was, by far, the best one I've experienced so far (completely unbiased report).  In fact, several of Lou's amazing slo-mo physics examples will probably appear in my future math lessons.  This great screenshot of a 3-point shot by one of UVA's basketball players overlaid with a grid for reference, for example, I plan to use in a few weeks when I discuss quadratic equations:

3-pt shot (graphed) from “How Things Work” course.

My suggestion?  Try a few out for yourself.  Tweet me @RimweLLC with #MOOCado to let me know your verdict.  Even better, enroll in one of my upcoming courses and meet me in MOOC world!

Additional Note:  Don't think Coursera and the other platforms are taking themselves too seriously though.  They still have the ability to poke fun - my favorite example is THIS "course" (offered on April 1st):

I'm ready to sign up! ;-)  As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts


Changing Course:  10 Years of Tracking Online Education in the US

Are we MOOC'd Out?

MOOC April Fool's:  Full description of Underwater Basket Weaving!

Huffington Post's MOOC site

Curtin University (credit for the opening graphic)

* If you haven't, here's a bit of background: (taken from Changing Course:  10 Years of Tracking Online Education in the US)

Background info for MOOCs, from Changing Course.


The Solver Blog

Author:  Dr. Diana S. Perdue

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