Tag Archives: Coursera

what happened to all the MOOCs?

What happened to the MOOCs?

MOOC = Massive Open Online Course

You knew that already, yes? Here are my thoughts for a Friday afternoon.

Massive – Yes, these courses are usually large. But anything that isn’t constrained by the number of chairs in a room has this potential. A course that has 200 people on it from a provider that has rooms that can cope with no more than 150 people would call this ‘massive’. We know that FutureLearn has had the largest ever online course (I’m not calling them MOOCs anymore) with 440,000 registered for one course, but we’ve yet to see the stats about how many who signed up actually started it, completed more than one week, even completed the course? I wonder if the larger numbers are reflected in the percentages of these ‘completors’ and whether they’re better/worse than those with (much) lower numbers (e.g. 5-15k sign-ups) or figures from other providers?

It’s a little strange that the Guinness World Record website has no mention of FutureLearn or online course, does that still make it a valid record?

Open – Yes, they’re open, but it’s increasingly difficult to find the ‘open’ version (especially on Coursera), you’ve really got to hunt for the link in amongst all the ‘specialization’ and ‘pricing’ links. If you didn’t know what to look for you’d be forgiven for thinking these MOOCs are not free. Open is also about the lack of requirement/prerequisites to already be educated to a particular level. Open, in this way means we can all try something we’d otherwise have to complete an application for (and pass).

Online – Yes, they’re online. Well, they are available to everyone, so long as everyone has access to a computing device and an internet connection. I would like to say personal access to a device and access to a reliable internet connection, but I appreciate this isn’t always the case.

Course – Yes, they’re a course; a collection of articles, videos and activities, maybe with discussion points dotted here or there (for social learning), and probably a test or end ‘assignment’ to prove you’ve learned something to qualify you for a certificate.

My point here is that I am seeing less and less, on the courses or platforms I see, that resemble MOOCs I saw two years ago. MOOC providers have to make money, yes, so there needs to be a way for them to make it, and statements and certificates and the like is a good way to do this. I’m just not sure we’re creating MOOCs for the reason we started – are we trying to force the learning into a model that is, essentially, for-profit now? What about courses that are really just about learning something new, not for CPD or to further a career, those that don’t have something that can be tested? Do you force a test or assignment just so an arbitrary mark can be assigned, therefore completing the numbers & stats in order for a mark/grade or completion rate for a certificate to be awarded?

Are MOOCs (and what we used to refer to as MOOCs) about learning or, as it seems now with exams, tests, assignments, certificates, etc. about the testing and payment options?

I’ll hang my hat firmly on the peg and say that, in the original and purest ‘ideal’ of a MOOC, MOOCs should be about expanding your knowledge, in any subject, for your own reasons and in your own time. Whether there is a paid-for option at the end (provided it’s still free for all at the start and everything inside the course is the same) shouldn’t matter. But it feels like it does. It feels like the commercial aspect is taking over. I hope not.

Image source: ms.akr (CC BY 2.0)

Video Filming David Hopkins

How ‘long’ is too ‘long’?

For a few years now I’ve been spouting the same lines when it comes to planning a video for an distance learning course or MOOC: “preferably no more than 4 minutes, definitely no more than 6.” Anything more than 6 and we’d consider splitting it at a natural point in the subject, or working with the individual and their content and seeing where a natural break can be made, or other ways to shorten the video.

This has been supported by experience (from distance learning courses I’ve supported at both Bournemouth and Leicester University’s) and the MOOCs I’ve supported and developed while at Warwick, as well as articles like this.

As with everything, there is enough evidence to be found to support and to disprove it.

Yes, I agree that if you have a ‘teaching’ resource, where the academic/teacher is speaking to camera then there is an optimum length that someone will sit and be ‘talked at’, and this is where I see the 6 minute limit coming into play. These kinds of resources are often loaded to a VLE or a MOOC and as part of a set of resources for the topic or week’s subject area.

But there are other approaches to video content where I don’t see this working. What about case studies or mini-documentaries? What about a conversation, when a short 4 minute clip just isn’t enough to get in to the details? Do you still stick to the short-is-best message? In order for these to work you will often need to make it longer so the content and ‘message’ of the case study can be put across.

Let’s not forget, the video is nothing on it’s own. It must always be put into context for the student – why are you presenting the video for them to watch, what do you expect them to think about when they watch it, is there something they need to question as a result of the video (and/or linking it to other resources to build their wider knowledge about the subject area), can they critique the resource and present their findings back to the group, etc.?
Continue reading

MOOC quality

MOOCs – question on purpose, quality, student retention, feedback, etc.

Ahh, questions around the purpose, quality, value, etc. in and around MOOCs have started again, and justly so.

  • Disclaimer: Like many I have opinions, but not answers.

The recently raised questions, started by Fred Riley on the ALT mailing list, have produced a good set of resources for those of us who are starting to ask these questions, needing a more comprehensive or value-added answer.

Fred’s original query was:


Does anyone on this list know of any recent research and/or articles on the teaching quality of MOOCs? I’m thinking of things such as:

  • student retention, with MOOC drop-out rates being notoriously high (I plead guilty to that myself :( )
  • student surveys and qualitative feedback
  • how many students in a MOOC platform (eg FutureLearn) go on to take further courses in that platform

I’m sure that there are many other indicators of quality – those are just off the top of my head. I’m not in the MOOC game myself as yet, other than as a punter, but I’m looking to get into the development side of things.


In some instances, especially around the data of students/learners taking further courses (across MOOC platform providers as well as within) is difficult, but I hope we can get to a stage where this kind of data is available and open to interrogation (if only for the individual partner to  query their own courses).

Here are some of the resources shared, in response to Fred’s original query:

If you have any further links or resources that would help Fred and the ALT mailing list, please reply to the thread on the mailing list. If you don’t have access then please leave the link or your comment below for everyone to have the opportunity to read.

Yes, OK. Fred’s question also raises the question around the ‘quality’ of a MOOC, the validity in the data of learner retention or ‘steps completed’ as triggers for saying a MOOC is of a certain quality, or the student was ‘successful’ on the course, but these are for another post. Fred answered this quite clearly on the ALT mailing list that, for him “retention is IMO and indicator of quality as perceived by the student – the better retention, the more students are engaged with the course and its materials. If they don’t like a course, they’ll drop out.”

NB: I’ve helped run several runs of the Warwick/FutureLearn ‘Shakespeare and his World’ MOOC and use this as an example I use where the statistics provided for the 10 week course don’t necessarily match the actual experience. Case in point is the number of learners who complete the course, in that they take all the tests and mark at least one step as complete in each of the 10 weeks. We know from the learners themselves, from their comments, feedback, tweets, etc., that they take what they want from the course – one learner may only like Shakespeare’s comedy’s, another likes on his tragedy’s, so they will omit the plays/weeks they don’t like. They should still be viewed as a successful learner, and I’;m sure they think that of themselves, as in their own mind (and in ours!) they got what they wanted from the course, yet did not actually ‘complete’ it.

If there is one question for 2016 and MOOCs, it’s whether there is any way to really truly, honestly, understand the ‘value’ of a MOOC?

Image source: State Library Victoria (CC BY-NC 2.0)

gate

MOOCs and ‘facilitation’

What are your thoughts on this – moderation and/or facilitation of MOOCs?

Considering the time, effort, and cost of developing these free courses (more information is available here or here or here, among other sources), what are your thoughts on how we manage the course, the comments and discussion during the run, and the subsequent comments and discussion during re-runs?

Do you have support, from technical and/or academic backgrounds monitoring the course to keep comments on track and answer pertinent questions? Are these paid positions or part of their role? Do you actively check the comments? If so, what for, why, and what do you do?

Do you design-in an element of real-time collaboration on the course (facilitation of discussion, round-up videos, Google Hangouts, etc.), and if so are these sustainable over multiple runs of the course? If you’ve done these before, but then designed them out of the course for re-runs, why?

All comments and feedback welcome – I’m trying to understand how we move MOOCs forward and maintain institutional ‘control’ where there is little (financial) reward.

Image source: Greg Johnston (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs:

Reading: Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs

One aspect of working on MOOCs is that there is no clear way to measure it’s success. Do you use the stats and logs that indicate clicks and time-on-page, or look at the nature of the conversations and/or comments made?

That’s why this paper loaded to Academia.edu by George Veletsianos piqued my interest – is there something in here that can help me understand the metrics we need to use in order to measure the learning and/or success of a MOOC?

“Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs: Participation in social networks outside of MOOCs, Notetaking, and contexts surrounding content consumption.”

Unsurprisingly the authors highlights the lack of literature around MOOCs that look into the metrics of MOOCs that are not captured on the MOOC platform (EdX, Coursera, FutureLearn, etc.), notably the social engagements, note-taking, and content consumption. Something I’d not considered before is the “availability of large-scale data sets appears to have shaped the research questions that are being asked about MOOCs.”  Continue reading

Futurelearn

FutureLearn: Can they do it?

FuturelearnIf you’ve been away (for a long long time) you may not have heard about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). If you’ve been away for only a short time you’ll know of these things, but you may not have heard of Futurelearn.

In short, Futurelearn is the first UK-led “multi-institutional platform for free, open, online courses” whose aim is to “increase access to higher education for students in the UK and around the world by offering a diverse range of high quality courses through a single website.”

All good stuff so far. With the experience and weight of The Open University behind it, and partners including the British Library, the British Council and other leading UK Universities (Leicester, Bath, Warwick, Cardiff, etc.) it poses a significant investment of time and energy to ‘do it right’. Futurelearn

“believe there is great potential to change the way people access high quality higher education. With our partners, we are seizing the opportunity to create amazing new learning experiences, twinned with a clear pathway to qualifications for those that want them.”

In this article on the Times Higher Education website today – “Futurelearn’s boss on breaking into MOOCs” –  Simon Nelson (Futurelearn CEO) claims the course platform “has the potential to become a social networking site for the student community as popular as Facebook”.

Continue reading

MOOC

MOOC, what’s in a name?

MOOCAfter spending considerable time and effort on MOOCs in the past the  Coursera / University of Edinburgh eLearning and Digital Culture MOOC (#edcmooc) was the first have been able to complete.

How I did this was quite simple … I knew I’d fade out after a week or so so I set a goal of one blog entry per week’s activity, including a pre-MOOC post and post-MOOC ‘submission feedback’ post. Now I had set myself this public goal I needed to follow and live up to it. It worked. This may not be to everyone’s taste or motivational style, but after 3 other failed MOOCs I wanted to finish one, just one.

  • MOOCs were also presented at the 2013 Blackboard Users Conference (#durbbu) by Jeremy Knox: MOOC Pedagogy

Which now brings me to the nature of the different MOOCs available. By now just about everyone knows what a MOOC is – if not there are plenty of excellent resources to help you on your favourite search engine. With more and more MOOCs available, and the organisations offering them increasing all the time, just what types of MOOCs are they, and what do they mean for the student?

EDCMOOC

Comments and Feedback #edcmooc

EDCMOOCNow the course is completed, the comments on my artefact have been made available. Many thanks to the 9 individuals who left such complementary and encouraging comments.

Before I list the comments … I have one question. I wonder what the next cohort of students will make of the MOOC? Considering the volume of discussion on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks, as well as the wealth of information and analysis on individual or team blogs, it’ll be a very different experience than we’ve had. Won’t it?

Anonymous comments and feedback are below (many thanks to the markers), and the “score from your peers” was given as a ‘2‘ indicating the artefact “achieves this fully or almost fully” (based on the marking criteria of the MOOC themes – see here for the marking criteria and submitted artefact).

  1. Wow this is GREAT. BTW I live in Manhattan about 10 min. walk to Times Square so I super-related to the visual! Love how Prezi was used to work with the “Times Square Crosswords” concept. So much was well embedded and organized the narrative. This is the best artefact I’ve seen. The author seems very comfortable in the digital environment. Thank you!

“Great! Well done. “Draws you in.” Excellent! Thanks.”

  1. #1 Yes, the artefact addresses a number of themes suggested by the course material #2 Yes, the author has shown understanding of several themes, and offered visual material as metaphors that help deliver these effectively #3 Yes, the artefact touches upon a number of themes involved with traditional and current theories in digital pedagogies #4 Yes, the choice of production tools, methods and media content from the web is appropriate to promote the authors message #5 Yes, the artefact invokes a reaction to the content, and invites a second viewing to reflect on the story.

Continue reading

EDCMOOC

Digital Artefact for #edcmooc Wk.5

EDCMOOCHere we are, the final week, well done everyone, we made it!

A ‘Digitial Artefact’ you say? What’s that then? I was not sure when the MOOC started what a digital artefact was, but now understand it’s just another term, albeit slightly pompous, for a blog post, a video, an image, a collection of audio/visual elements that make are collected together in one ‘presentation’ mode.

And what is this artefact to do: The artefact will be critically peer-assessed on elements and themes of the course:

  1. The artefact addresses one or more themes for the course
  2. The artefact suggests that the author understands at least one key concept from the course
  3. The artefact has something to say about digital education
  4. The choice of media is appropriate for the message
  5. The artefact stimulates a reaction in you, as its audience, e.g. emotion, thinking, action

I decided to bring together some thoughts around the MOOCs theme in a Prezi, see below:   Continue reading

EDCMOOC

Reflection on the ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’ MOOC, Wk.4 #edcmooc

EDCMOOCWeek four and we are so nearly at the end of the five week Coursera / University of Edinburgh MOOC: ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’. From ‘being human’ (last week) to ‘redefining the human’ we will be introduced to the perspective that the “notion that the human’ is a social category which is made, not a biological or philosophical matter-of-fact”, apparently!

Videos are again the staple of the weekly resources, and the discussion boards are full of analysis, sympathy, and criticism with the themes and characters within. However, there is far more criticism than in previous weeks – have we now arrived at a stage where we, the students, are either more confident in opinion or we are just more comfortable with the subject?

  • Robbie is not human, but can demonstrate human-esque experiences (loneliness, happiness, faith, etc.). The big question here is why we continue to treat ‘Robbie’ as non-human when he has all the traits and characteristics of an entity that is human – he has a life-span, he is self-aware, he understands the importance of his existence, he ‘dreamed’, and the importance of his impending demise, he knows what is is to be lonely. Are these not human characteristics? While you may argue that he was made not grown … aren’t we all made, at conception? He became “self-aware” .. well, children become more and more aware of themselves at different ages. Is this not what happened to Robbie, albeit in a different way. Yes, he is not organic, but is that the only condition to being classed as ‘human’ that Robbie does not fulfill?Robbie clearly has human characteristics, but how many were programmed and how many were developed, learned, or ‘evolved’? Is that the true definition of human, the ability to evolve, is it more than just organic material?

Robbie – A Short Film from Neil Harvey on Vimeo.