After taking several MOOC courses I am ready to speak about what I think are the good and bad qualities about them. Just to described what I did. I look at several of the larger sites like Coursera and signed up for courses with them and also went to smaller MOOCs that were available just so I could see what was out there.
Honestly if I had to sum up the experience, it was like finding a good website with tons of good information about one topic. It didn’t really have that ‘course’ feeling because there was nothing at stake for me but it was more than just a website. I guess I would describe as a website with a emphasis on learning rather than just sharing information. I now think MOOCs are just learning websites, not really courses. Anyway…
They organize a lot of good material in one place. This is great if I am interested in a topic. It’s easier than having to search the internet or library for the material. In many ways, I felt like MOOCs were just organized text books that were digital and more alive than an actual book – again, learning websites.
Most of the courses were set up the same – video, quizzes, and a discussion forum.
The videos were good. It’s nice to have an instructor talk about a topic. But some were like 70 minutes. Really can I look at you present your PPT for 70 minutes? I would encourage those professors to break up their videos in 5 minute chunks. An issue with the videos is that if I had a question, I could not stop the instructor and ask them about it and the discussion forums were not much help as the instructor cannot answer a question when 70,000 people (let alone 25) are in a course. Some of the courses videos were better than others, with some using professional video editing software and others just using youtube. I preferred the youtube videos because I could bookmark or save them if I wanted to use as resources later on.
Quizzes were very generic. Hitting mostly low level knowledge. I guess this is to be expected unless the instructor has been trained on assessing high level knowledge though multiple choice questions, which is not easy feat, I would guess most of these automatic scoring assessments are not really that good and leave a bad taste in most people’s mouths. A few of the courses had assignments and again these were not graded by people but rather automatic score checkers. Not a bad thing but I think these features were highly underutilized and there needs to be a better system if these are to be actual courses.
Forums. I thought the forums were ok. I think this had to do with the instructors experience teaching online. Some of the courses had like 30 different places to talk to each other which is obviously way too confusing. The courses that had less than 10 topics seemed a lot more organized however you are really just talking with classmates. It was tough to get the instructor to read the posts, so these are not much better than any internet forum. I didn’t feel like I was in a course forum – Not that its bad but you need instructor interaction for this to be a course. Otherwise its just a website geared towards learning.
Overall I found the experience fun but there was nothing new here. There are plenty of websites out there that teach me about something and are better than MOOCs. There were some really good ones though but I was never wowed by anything. It just seemed like a lot of the courses were thrown together in order to ‘teach’ a MOOC rather then put together a really good course. Again, I guess that is what you should expect when you are not paying anyone to put these courses together and you do not know if the instructors have ever really been taught to teach online. I am not saying there were not good instructors but even a good instructor needs to learn how to teach online before doing so. I guess overall I was somewhat disappointed I wasn’t wowed. I was expecting more. Everything just seemed to rushed.
Anyway, those were my initial feelings. I avoided posting stats about MOOCs in this post but will do so in the near future.