Reflections Of My First MOOC 1

I recently finished the Gamification course offered by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business via Coursera.org.  The course was six weeks long and had more than 63,000 registered students.  Close to 6,000 finished and I was one of them.  I kept notes as I took the course.  Not of the content, but of my impressions, both good and not so good.

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The course design is fairly typical of MOOCs today.  Each week there were a dozen or so 10-15 minute PowerPoint presentation w/embedded talking head video, but with no interaction available.  This is followed by a weekly quiz of 10 multiple choice questions.  There were also three written assignments of increasing length and detail.  The written assignments are peer (student) graded by five other students.  At the end, there is a multiple choice final exam.  The quizzes, written assignments, and final were mandatory to complete the course.  There was also an optional discussion forum that was not graded.

As an FYI, the course definition of gamification is “The use of game elements and game design techniques in a non-game context.”

My first impression was negative.  The professor started out the first video lesson as a World of Warcraft animated dragon.  I thought it was pretty cheesy, but hey, what do I know?  Impressions:

  • Overall, the video production values of the lectures was good.  However, there were a few times the audio was not synced to the video.
  • The lectures covered a wide range of topics with good accompanying examples.  Every time the professor introduced a new topic, he had visual examples to show it.
  • The scaffolding was pretty good.  He started out with the basics and then built into more complicated subjects based on the fundamentals he previously covered.
  • I found the discussion forum overwhelming because there were so many people posting.  I was unable to form any kind of bond with anyone because there were just too many people.
  • Thank God the lectures were chunked.  I never would be able to get through video lectures like that if there were an hour long.
  • I found the written assignment feedback from other “students” to be a joke.  I’d get feedback like “nice,” “good,” “cool.”  Yeah, really useful to me.

So, it did not use state of the art technology to engage the students.  It did pretty much replicate what the vast majority of schools still do: sit in a classroom or auditorium and listen to a lecture.

Does a course like this deserve college credit?  In my opinion, no.  The technology exists to make content like this much more interactive and engaging.  The technology also exists to better assess the students mastery of the subject.  Besides, my impression is there really was not enough content to warrant college credit.  Hmm, maybe one credit point.  It only took about 2-3 hours a week or work.

Bottom line…was I thrilled?  No.  Will I take another MOOC?  Yes.  Only next time I probably won’t do the assignments.  I don’t need the completion “certificates” for what I’m interested in.

Comments, jabs, refutes, discussions?

One comment on “Reflections Of My First MOOC

  1. Reply Sharon Boller May 30, 2013 12:11 pm

    Loved your evaluation of the MOOC. I took this last year – and came to similar conclusions. I did learn from it – and I thought the video lectures were well-done. I loved the chunking because I could listen to lectures while I walked. I was lucky enough to get better peer reviews than you; had I gotten “cool” as a response, I would have been bummed as I put a lot of time into writing mine.

    For me the biggest drawback was the Forums, As you mentioned, they were unwieldy and overwhelming – and I quickly decided to ignore them. This limited interaction with others – something I think is critical to the learning process. They definitely need to get this facet ironed out before the learning value can ratchet up.

    As for college credit? Maybe. I worked hard; we’ve had a couple other folks in our organization take the MOOC – and they worked hard. I felt it mirrored the level of effort I’ve put into 100 level courses in college so I could see offering it for credit. I would NOT consider it a higher-level college course but more like an intro.

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