Wednesday, October 09, 2013

What a Plant Knows [MOOC]

What a Plant Knows What a Plant Knows comes as a refreshing change. This is down to the quality and enthusiasm of the teaching staff rather than any platform attribute.

Apart from a couple of statistics courses, the majority of the MOOCs I have taken were because I wanted to explore the platform and approach to learning being used rather than because of the subject matter. Coursera's What a Plant Knows is different, because as the non-plant scientist Internet Consulting Editor of Annals of Botany, I feel that I really do want to learn more about plants.

Based on his book What a Plant Knows, Daniel Chamovitz fits into what I'll call the Model B MOOC Professor - the big personality. In the grey world of MOOCs, this works well for me, although it would be very easy to tip over the edge and become irritating. As usual, there is a little too much talking head video, but clearly efforts have been made to include alternative formats. The assessment component is perfunctory, a few MCQs for each section. To their credit, teaching staff, including Daniel Chamovitz, are actively participating in the course discussions boards.

Week 1 was a good general introduction, although maybe slightly a little too "OH WOW, it's a PLANT". Week 2 on plant responses to light ("What A Plant Sees") is right on the money - great stuff! Without any doubt this is the best Science MOOC I have seen yet.

Will this (very good) MOOC bring students flocking to the professional study of plant science? Not in any significant numbers - I can't see us having to start a plant science degree to cope with student demand any time soon.


  1. Can I ask what the Model A MOOC Professor looks like? I've just started two MOOCs where the instructors are, not to put to fine a point on it, completely invisible. Makes me wonder what they will get out of it.

    1. A Model A MOOCster is a mumbling middle age male :-)
      The sort that used to show up on Open University TV programs wearing a kipper tie.

  2. Oh yes, I've seen loads of those! BTW just came across yr quote: "Video lectures and online quizzes stretching endlessly into the future to the very crack of doom...". The two seem to go together!