Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Out with the Old, in with the . . . MOOCs?

Recently the semester stared. Without me. I have been a student most of my living memory, so to not be a student this semester is weird. It's throwing me off. So I am looking into ways to continue learning even after my degree. My first approach was TED talks and Khan Academy, but as September has worn on I wanted something that resembled an actual classroom more. So I decided to try out a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). I previously heard about Coursera (thanks, Katie Wilkie!), so I browsed the courses starting soon and found several I found interesting. I narrowed my selection down to the courses that seemed the most interesting to me. Then I enrolled in two: "Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative," which looks at the different ways Tolkein's Lord of the Rings is taken into different media, and "Understanding Media by Understanding Google."

I enrolled in two Coursera classes, and I'm interested to see how they go. A few things that are exciting:

  • I get to learn about things I'm interested in, even though I'm not enrolled in a traditional university.
  • I get to interact, in real time (or delayed forum-time), with other people interested in learning about the same things that are interesting to me.
  • Teaching across this new medium could open up new ways to teach, and more ways to make education available to more people.
  • There are people from many places in the world participating in these courses. I hope to learn from the different peoples' perspecitives. One of the MOOCs I'm enrolled in has students from over 150 countries.
  • It's free.
But there are some things that make me wonder how this experience will actually work, and how the MOOC format will affect how much I am able to interact with other people and really learn the things the course is about. Here are some of those things:
  • There are 44,000 people enrolled in the course. Of those, I suspect only a fraction will stay with it the whole time; let's say a fourth of the people stay. That means that 11,000 people are posting on the forum, on the Google+ group, and participating in the class. There is NO WAY that I, just one student, could keep up with that. Not that I have to. But the constant Google+ notifications and emails are getting annoying, only 3 days into the course.
  • With such varied backgrounds, how do we have a starting point? What's the common denominator of people tuning in from all over the world?
  • How does a professor truly teach students that he or she never personally interacts with? Or even know the name of?
  • Will such a massive scale encourage thought and discussion on topics, or will it be too difficult to monitor even the threads you're participating in?
I'm interested to see how things will pan out. But for now, I see that MOOCs need to work out a few kinks before they take an established place in the world of further education.
And by the way, I structured this HTML mostly on my own! I'm learning HTML5 on Codecademy—I feel awesome.

1 comment:

  1. By following the #mooc hashtag on Google+, I found this article, which lays out the question of sustainability and effectiveness of MOOCs. Interesting read.