I took this six week long MOOC as part of my studies for the Edinburgh Napier MScBOE. We started on September 12th and the course will officially close on October 31st when all content will be archived. I’ll divide my thoughts into four areas:
- My observations about my own engagement in the MOOC
- How the level of activity matched up to my own expectations
- My views on the design and facilitation of the MOOC
- What I will take away from the MOOC – and how I will use those takeaways!
I was a very good student in that I did everything I was asked to! Although much of the MOOC (such as working through the videos and doing the mini-tests) I did out of a sense of duty (for my MSc) some elements – the more creative tasks such as trying a new tool, making a screencast and writing essays- I did with pleasure.
The format of the MOOC was the same each week: a series of short videos, a mini multiple choice test and a longer task, sometimes optional and not graded, and at other times compulsory and peer-assessed. Although I did work through the videos, I chose to read the transcripts instead of actually watching the videos (most of which were of the ‘talking heads’ type) This is because I have little patience watching videos -and because I could both save time and absorb the information simply by reading the transcripts. I do wonder if the information might have ‘stuck’ more if I had paid attention to the person talking on the video, rather than skimming through the text (I need to see what research there is on that) but I was being expedient.
Likewise, I completed the mini-multiple choice questions in a perfunctory manner but actually – and ironically- got more involved when we were required to do more work. In week 2 we had to explore a new tool (I chose H5P) and present it in some way. In week 4 we had to transmediate an online article – I did this as a screencast. In week 5 we had to do a mini “Introduce yourself” video as a start to an online course. I cheated a bit by offering one I’d done already (for the Learn Moodle MOOC) but I would have been quite happy to do a new one, had it been specified. From my behaviour I deduce that I am most motivated when I have more freedom to present what I have learned, rather than being constrained by tests. And it fits very well with the social constructionist philosopy as outlined by Martin Dougiamas in the Moodle documentation on Pedagogy
We learn particularly well from the act of creating or expressing something for others to see
Another aspect of my engagement was in the discussion forums, but I will cover those in the next section
How the level of activity matched up to my own expectations.
I was disappointed to see very little interaction in the discussion forums – to such an extent that, when someone posted a question about how to do a particular task, I was in there immediately (in Moodle forum facilitator mode) with some support for them.
Perhaps I should have started some discussions myself? I think I was a bit shy of being the first, but had the facilitators or other participants started discussions, I would definitely have jumped in very quickly.
The MOOC had three main facilitators who put their names to the course and faces to the videos. However, forum interaction seemed to be managed by a “teaching assistant” , James who was, as far as I could tell, the only person who responded in the MOOC. That’s fine, as long as we are aware, and we were, but it was a very different experience from my own experience in the Learn Moodle MOOC and my experience in the only other MOOC I have taken part in – an Accessiblity MOOC run by MoodleRooms. In both my own MOOC and the Accessibiliy MOOC, conversations were much freer and the main facilitators were very active. However, perhaps this MOOC wasn’t intended to include free-ranging conversations, but instead to guide newbie online teachers through the basics without the distractions of supplementary discussions?
I was also uncertain as to how many people actually participated actually, compared with those who initially signed up. There didn’t seem to be a way of seeing a “participants’ list” as with Moodle. Again, though, did this matter? It wasn’t what I was used to, but it is good to experience things differently.
My views on the design and facilitation of the MOOC.
I would give the MOOC a good rating for doing what it set out to do: introduce teachers to online and blended teaching. Each week was presented in a consistent format as I outlined in section one. While it might have got a little repetitive by the end, it did take the participants through the basics of the subject in a progressive and well-explained way. The optional, ungraded tasks, gave those (such as myself) who were looking for a little more than videos and MCQs an opportunity to express ourselves.
Downloadable transcripts of the videos were very helpful and good for accessibility. I did briefly check the MOOC on my smartphone to see how it worked – and it did work! So I ticked that box.
The final graded assignment, an essay of 500 words with prompts, was a fitting summing up of the MOOC. It was peer assessed – such tasks have to be, in large MOOCS, – but we were given clear instructions as to what to look for when grading AND – I liked this- once we had been peer-assessed, we could read over our reviews and send a message to the facilitator if we were not happy with the grades. That is a useful way of covering the difficulties with peer assessment in MOOCS and is something perhaps I should think about in our Learn Moodle MOOC with our final peer assessed workshop?
Regarding the facilitation of the MOOC, as mentioned before, only one member of the team, James, the TA, seemed to respond to (the few) queries which arose. He occasionally commented on the weekly tasks, I guess, to show his presence. I can’t criticise him for this because I’ve done the same myself, commenting in a somewhat perfunctory manner when you have hundreds of course participants, in the hope that it makes you look active in the course. I’ve already discussed the fact that there wasn’t much extra dialogue beyond the set tasks.
As with many MOOCs, this MOOC was free but offered a paid for verified certificate. I didn’t take up this offer, but I think for those who did, it would have been a fairly worthwhile certificate since the course content was of a good quality, albeit basic. But then it was an introductory MOOC 🙂
What will I take away from the MOOC? And how will I use those takeaways?
My takeaways come in two areas: my learnings from the content of the MOOC, and my learnings from how the MOOC was run. Much of the content I already knew, either from life or from last year in the MSc BOE, but I appreciated having educational research “chunked” into short videos with transcripts I could download! rather than having to plough through long and tedious tomes.
My main takeaways are in terms of MOOC design and facilitation. I discovered that:
- Short mini-tests after videos are effective for recapping learning quickly. Also, a good technique is to ask for multiple answers (“select all that apply”) and for all the answers to be correct. (I noticed this technique in the accessiblity MOOC I did too. I used to think this simply let people cheat by guessing but now I think in fact, you have to think about each answer carefully, since you don’t expect all responses to be correct! It made me read through the possible options several times before deciding.
- The content of each week should be the same, ideally. This six week MOOC had a similar number of videos, tests and tasks each week, whereas in our Learn Moodle MOOC, although we try to keep the workload similar, we are aware that some weeks are fuller than others – because of the topics studied.
- My personal preference is for a greater variety of content and more facilitator interaction with more open-ended discussions, but I do accept that (a) this takes a lot of facilitator time and (b) for some, less confident and less experienced participants, these can be considered a distraction and blur the pathway.
And finally… it has encouraged me to seek out and join more MOOCs!