Over the last couple of months, I’ve been enrolled in a couple of MOOCs. They are great for a learning addict like me – I have to stop myself from browsing the Coursera course list all the time, in order to prevent nervous break down: there’s no way I can possibly learn all that in one life time, and that annoys me deeply.
Anyway, as I said, I did enrol in a few courses, and the experiences differed quite a bit. I dropped out of one course (Open Education at The Open University), another one was suspended indefinitely due to technical problems (Fundamentals of Online Education at Georgia Institute of Technology, through Coursera) and I successfully completed the last one (e-Learning and Digital Cultures at the University of Edinburgh, also through Coursera).
So that’s a 50% success rate. I mean, it’s not my fault that the one course on planning and designing Online Education had problems with their, ehm, design? It was quite shocking though, to learn that this precisely this course wasn’t continued due to difficulty with the way it was set up… But alas, it’s still very early stages for MOOCs, and I think at least the people who set this one up have learned from it…
Back to the MOOCs I did follow. How come I dropped out of one, and completed the other one with quite good results? I think it has something to do with the design, the sense of being monitored and the work load – not necessarily in that order.
With design, I mean not so much the course design, but more the visual lay out of the platform in which the course is delivered. The big difference between the two platforms was in their set up. I found it quite difficult to navigate the Open University course: the menu wasn’t always logical, the type face was pretty small, the page set up made me feel that I wasn’t entirely ‘in’ the course, and it took quite some time for pages to load, which made me lose focus. All in all, you could say that the user interface for this course contributed to me not paying attention.
But surely I’m used to not brilliant websites, you’d say? So I reckon the interface is not the only reason I dropped out. I also felt that this MOOC was just too big for me. Spending some 100 hours on this course in 7 weeks – I just couldn’t find the time to do it properly. And it did feel, with this course, that you were either in or out. It wasn’t easy to browse through some of the learning objects and pick ’n choose your way, maybe also because of the not so friendly interface. I realised that maybe the e-Learning and Digital Cultures course was do-able, because you could easily browse the objects, picking items that appealed to you. Because of the way the final assignment was set up (produce a digital artefact that ‘expresses, for you, something important about one or more of the themes we have covered during the course’), you could focus on a topic that you wanted to explore further. That really helped in staying engaged.
Last but not least, I must admit that I almost didn’t even start the e-Learning and Digital Cultures course… If it hadn’t been for an online friend pointing out the many great resources, I wouldn’t have started it in week three (or was it four?). And once I started to engage, I felt I couldn’t drop out now that my friend had just gotten me in… In one MOOC I did last year, the feeling of being monitored came from the weekly tests – you had to keep up in order not to drop out, and that gave you the feeling of somebody noticing if you would drop out. So for me, apparently it helps if someone is paying attention to my studying.
Having learned this, I’m pretty curious what my next MOOC-experience will bring me. Because, with an addict like me, one thing is pretty sure: there will be more MOOCs.