Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A glimmer of hope on the MOOC horizon

EDUC115N My pervading sense of weariness with MOOCs continues, but in spite of that, I keep signing up for new courses, and it's possible I may even complete one soon.

In some ways I feel I've had enough MOOCs to last me for a few years, but I still want to pick up ideas from other teachers to use in my own practice, so I keep checking in with new MOOCs even though I have little intention of completing most or indeed any of them. Last week I was hopeful about the Wikipedia School of Open course which has just started, but when I looked at it earlier in the week, I was immediately put off by the rigidity of the structure ("you must join a team of others straight away") and the chunkiness and lack of clarity of the Wikipedia-based environment (and the fact that the Blackboard Collaborate introductory session doesn't work on my computer didn't help either), so I binned it immediately (shame).

In contrast, the glimmer of hope is Stanford's EDUC115N How to Learn Math course, which continues to be a beacon for how MOOCs should run. I am persisting with this course where I have quickly dropped all the others I have registered for. Why is this? Well it's not the software, which although fairly straightforward to use once you learn what all the cryptic navigation symbols with no text labels mean, is still a bit clunky - particularly for submitting each assignment. And it's not the learning design - I've got short video fatigue, having watched around 80 videos so far and I'm only 70% of the way through the course (although credit for not trying to replicate a classroom lecture type experience online with a long video).

What keeps me going with EDUC115N (as I like to call it) is the approach to learning - not focused on assessment but on a clear exposition of key concepts (well supported by research evidence if you want to follow it all up). It would be easy to "cheat" your way though this course if you wanted to as the peer marking system is non-secure, but it is innovative compared to all the other MOOCs I have experienced in downplaying quantitative aspects of assessment and emphasizing engagement though activity and expression of personal opinions - and hardly an MCQ in sight.

I may have some more ideas about how we could use a "semi-peer" approach to text marking in online assessment locally tomorrow.

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