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Momenta Learning

A blog on topics related to E-learning, online education, and instructional design.

Friday, January 25, 2013

My take on the MOOCs

Yes, everybody is talking about the MOOCs and how a large movement is. There is talk about how an effective educational tool they really are, how they have a very poor completion rate (I recently heard that is around 10%), how they don’t have any academic value since there is no college credit attached to any of these courses, that they are actually very expensive to make, that the organizations that run these outfits are still looking for a business model, and of course, that recent events point towards a brighter future when a course in a MOOC will actually be worth something. I think I also heard some talk about how this movement will fit with the job market since nobody knows how employers are valuing this education, and so on. For all this talk, I have not heard much about how these courses are actually being made. Each MOOC has defined guidelines on how to create the courses, and I know they work closely with the instructional designers in charge of these projects, at least in academic settings. I had the opportunity to start participating in a MOOC project, but then was assigned to other projects and I did not really participate at all after that, I know the course has been released this month, but I have been following the design and development of that course all the way up to its conclusion. My first disappointment with this particular MOOC involves the LMS they have in place, which is even more limited than the one we use for our own courses. This is basically a wiki site where you insert your content, this of course limits the type of content you can offer in your course. For example, there is no way to add a very valuable tool like blogs. In our case, external tools were considered but they were quickly discarded because most of them cannot handle a load of 40,000 subscribers (Google only lets you add 100 people). You really don’t want a blog used in a running course wide open for spamming or robots posting unrelated content. Why is a blog important? Remember that in a MOOC the only contact you will probably have with the instructor is through the videos they make as lectures, there are so many people taking these classes that asking a question directly to the instructor is impractical, so they encourage you to go to the discussion forum. Even there, in all likelihood, you will end up posting your question and maybe one of your fellow participants will answer, maybe the assigned assistant will answer your question. Now, don’t get me wrong, student-student interaction is very important, it is a valuable social tool that encourages learning, but so is interacting with the instructor. A blog gives the instructor the opportunity of sharing (asynchronously) information that is not included in the course, or the chance to expanding a point in the content. From my point of view, one of the weaknesses of a MOOC course is that there is very little student-instructor interaction, besides the mass emails they send from time to time, or those lucky ones that get their question answered in the discussion forum. MOOCs need to find a way to increase the time the instructor interacts with students, besides the recorded lectures, and this can be accomplished through a blog, which this particular MOOC platform currently lacks.

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