Summer is MOOC time

I'm not sure if it's that the courses I'm most interested in are offered in the summer, or that I just seem to have more time in the summer, either way, I'm starting to associate summer time with MOOC time. This year, I signed up for a couple of courses on Coursera and one on Ventura Lab. I know that I signed up for more than I can actively participate in. Especially given that this summer is particularly busy.

Today I began the first of the MOOC that I signed up for, the Design Thinking MOOC on Stanford's Venture Lab system. At the beginning of any MOOC, I ask myself: (1) what do I want to get out of this MOOC? and, (2) what commitments am I gonna make to myself regarding participation in this MOOC?

My interest in this MOOC is not just in the content that is being presented. I am also interested in the course structure and the learning management system that supports it. I still find myself wondering if an xMOOCs can provide the same kind of transformative connections that the connectivist MOOCs provide? I also find myself wondering, what learning theories and best practices can be derived from the various MOOCs?

What do I want to get out of this MOOC?

My primary goal for this summer's MOOCs is to look at what I can learn about MOOC design by participating in a couple of MOOCs. Last summer I wrote asking why there was only one level of participation in MOOCs. I am happy to report that Venture-Lab allowed me to sign up as someone auditing the course. This allows me to participate, but I won't get a certificate of completion. More importantly, it allows the organizers to measure retention, as learners who sign up as auditors, typically those who have no intention of submitting assignments any may or may not choose to complete the course, are not considered "drop-outs".

I also wrote about ease-of-use being one of the characteristics for retention in a MOOC. What I mean by that, is that if the system is not easy to use, the dropout rates will be larger. Further to that, personally, if I cannot participate in a MOOC fully from my iPad, and possibly even my iPhone, then it is much less likely I will complete the MOOC. This is in part because I participate in MOOCs during my down time. That is, when I'm sitting in front of my computer I am working. I use my iPad for learning, general reading, and entertainment. If I can't MOOC from my iPad, then I'm less likely to do it, but also that MOOCing from my computer feels too much like work. 

I'm happy to report that so far I'm able to use my iPad to participate in the Design Thinking MOOC. Unfortunately, it appears that the Venture Lab system went down this morning, just at a time when I was starting to get into the content. So further learning on design thinking will have to wait until tomorrow, hoping that the system is back up and running by then. I do wonder, however, how many people will be lost because the system went down at the beginning of the course?  That is, how technical glitches negatively impact retention.

What committments am I going to make to myself regarding participation in this MOOC?

For me, the MOOC is both a chance to learn something new, but also a chance to do some research. From that perspective, I will commit to writing a reflective journal entry after every interaction I have on the MOOC. My current plan is to spend a little bit of time most mornings (while I enjoy my morning coffee), participating in the MOOC. By participation I mean, watching videos, reading and posting in the discussion forum, and doing or reflecting upon the assignments. My reflective journal is private, so that I can capture stream of concious thoughts without having to worry about grammar and whether my thoughts actually make sense. If I have insights that I think would be valuable to a larger audience, I will also write a blog post.

I will also commit to interacting with the MOOC using only mobile devices. I will use my iPad and my iPhone. This is in part to test how well the system works for mobile, but also because I know that if I cannot access it on my mobile devices my participation will be reduced.

For the Design Thinking MOOC in particular, I will reflect upon how the lessons in the class could be applied to the design of both my dissertation project, and a MOOC that I hope to host next summer.


One response

  1. Denis O'Brien Avatar
    Denis O’Brien

    Hi Rebbeca,
    You are one of my contacts in LinkedIn and I like the idae of what you are embarking on. I too only want to tap on my BlackBerry and use it whilst I am ‘waiting’ so I am going to finish with … (three dots) rather than finish the sentence or thought since I am good at starting but then get hyper critical on re starting and nothing ever gets ‘posted’ and not posting so this is the ‘deal’ I have made with myself. Also since I am into metalearning and external examining I am interested in how MOOCs rate on that perspective. I will log onto the Design Thinking course and tick the ‘Audit’ box. I don’t think I could promise to blog every time because I tend to get immersed/distracted and fail to go into reflective mode.

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