My MOOC Confession
I was super excited in March to be trying out a MOOC on social network analysis (SNA). And then life happened. I don’t want to make too many excuses, but it was a pretty hectic spring semester. Despite my initial enthusiasm, I had trouble balancing other demands in life and in work to accommodate the MOOC. I think that’s a nerdy way of saying it stopped being a priority.
Flickr: Luca ©
Did I fail my MOOC? or did my MOOC failed me? I don’t know. But I think that we’re far from understanding the “best” way to leverage online technologies to support learning. Here are some of the things that went on with me and with the MOOC itself:
- I already kind of knew the content of the MOOC. I thought of it as a fun refresher to the material, like a special interest YouTube channel. There was a fairly low cost to dropping out. I was essentially auditing the class, without any specific reward in mind. I was engaging during “off time” as opposed to time I scheduled for this kind of learning.
- Although I asked an assistant to also take the course and to hold me accountable, that second part didn’t really happen. I wish it had. I really wanted the concepts to be a fruitful source of academic conversation, but…
- I started a week behind and work deadlines led me to fall even farther behind. Eventually it felt like I ought not to bother.
- The MOOC wasn’t a very social experience. Despite some online discussion areas and a Twitter hashtag, it didn’t feel to me like we were a community of learners. Along with a few other students, I actually had some very specific interests that weren’t a main topic of the course and posted to a discussion thread or two. Answers from classmates or from course TAs didn’t didn’t always happen.
- There was a link to start a local MeetUp group for the MOOC, but I didn’t see one in my area and didn’t feel like starting one.
- Although I thought the instructor was excellent, there were small glitches in the videos. I also preferred viewing them on the iPad, but that kind of meant a roadblock in the middle of “interactive” segments when you needed a real computer for certain demos or analyses. Similarly, the “checks for understanding” were novel, but the explanations were sometimes shallow. I would have benefited incredibly from hearing people talk it out.
So what? At this point, I ought to launch into talk about the bigger picture of MOOCs and other technologies. I ought to have tips on how this sort of thing could be improved. I ought to lobby for some TA to be available online 24 hours a day via chat. But I won’t– at least not right now.
Life continues to happen…
Special thanks to Alex Bowers of Teachers College (@Alex_J_Bowers), who encouraged me to share my experience. That was back in April. I’m serious: life’s been busy.