This is a very unusual summer for me: it’s August and I haven’t been to the coast yet. As a teacher (and language school owner) I’ve sometimes wondered what it would be like to be able to go on holiday whenever I chose to as opposed to having to go when there were no students willing to pay for classes. Still, I guess because so many people go in August, things are more relaxed if you choose to stay in the office. For one, I finally have time to explore MOOCs a bit. Since part of my job over the past year has involved coordinating MOOC creation, I think I could be justified in thinking of this as work – at least in part.
I haven’t done many MOOCs because I’m the kind of learner who, if they know they’re about to embark on a structured type of training, wants to do more or less everything the course designer has planned for them, trusting that there must have been sound reasons the course was designed in a particular way. And if I know I’m not going to have enough time to do it properly, I’d rather not even start – I’m still disappointed, for instance, that I wasn’t able to keep up with the TESOL EVO course Teaching Listening: Principles, techniques and technologies earlier this year. The couple of MOOCs I *have* completed I felt I got quite a bit out of – I blogged about the one on corpus linguistics and the one on how to get started with Moodle (tangentially) – so overall my experience with this type of course has been positive.
About two weeks ago I started on Introduction to Linguistics on Futurelearn. The choice of topic was prompted by the idea that I should be vaguely familiar with the content so that I could better focus on how the course was set up and see if I could pick up any tips in terms of course design that I could apply at work.
It was clear that the course had already started by the time I joined, but I couldn’t find info on when that was. Perhaps I’m not being entirely fair; maybe the start date was visible before I joined but subsequently I was unable to find it. My assumption was that it couldn’t have been too long before because otherwise they wouldn’t have kept letting people join.
A few days into the course I came across this interesting EdSurge article on Twitter: A Proposal to Put the ‘M’ Back in MOOCs and with a somewhat sinking feeling read the opening sentence:
MOOCs have evolved over the past five years from a virtual version of a classroom course to an experience that feels more like a Netflix library of teaching videos.
The fact is, since joining I felt a bit like I was wandering through a deserted building (a school, why not), hence the title. The content is predominantly videos. Discussions accompanying each video seemed to be long over, even though people were still posting sporadically, but I feel it’s unlikely they’ll ever get a response from another participant. I feel even more certain they won’t be getting a response from the online mentor (Lead Educator in Futurlearnese) because the course is officially over – although it doesn’t actually say so anywhere.
There is a prominent message every time I log on that the course content will remain available until a certain date, after which I’ll only be able to access it if I upgrade. However, I’m not sure that ensuring access to videos and discussions of other people is tempting enough for me to upgrade. Granted, I can’t guarantee that I would upgrade even if I had started on the course along with everyone else and taken part in the discussions, but that way I would have at least felt partial ownership. This way I feel like I’m entering empty classrooms, leafing through books left on the shelves and occasionally sensing someone else is in the building – not a feeling I would pay to sustain.
My plan was to keep a record of any interesting design features I come across on the course; then it occured to me I could write these up in a post. But as has been known to happen when I haven’t blogged in a while – which is, now I think of it, my customary blogging state – the introduction has turned into a post of its own, so I’ll leave the design observations for another post.
Have you done any MOOCs lately? What was your experience like – have you noticed any differences compared to MOOCs a couple of years ago? I’m especially curious about iTDi courses, which I keep hearing good things about.