Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A little MOOC madness

I signed up for a MOOC class today. For those of you as yet unfamiliar with that particular acronym, a MOOC is a massive open online class.

Let me see if I can offer you the most primer of primers, especially given how little I  know myself. I don't know the author of this article, but he has a pictorial reference to The Princess Bride. I know; random. Anyway, the author, Aaron Bady, gives a very nice and concise background on the rise and increasing presence of MOOCs.

Online learning isn't new. A lot of educators have firmly resisted online education and equally firmly believe that online education has little to no value. Well, there were people who felt the same way about horseless carriages and other equally equilibrium-shattering innovations. We are often threatened by that which we don't understand and which requires. . .  change.

Those of us who have taken well-designed and well-facilitated online classes know they are much like well-designed and well-facilitated face-to-face classes. Only harder. Because the onus for learning is mostly on the learner.

Those of us who have spent painful and long hours designing an online course know how hard it can be. A 15-week online course requires the instructor and instructional designer to think through as many situations and scenarios as possible when designing the entire 15 weeks of lessons, assignments, and assessments.

It took me nearly 80 hours to design my first online course. And then online facilitation--checking the discussion boards, reviewing assignments, coaching, etc.--took me approximately 45 minutes to an hour for each student for each assignment. It was excruciating, and fascinating.

So the MOOC takes the online course to a much grander scale. At present they are free and one can expect little to no interaction from the instructor because enrollment could be in the thousands. Why? Well, it's open, which means anyone can sign up for the course. Anyone. Anywhere. And it's free.

At the end of my 7-week course, I'll get a nifty certificate but only if I complete the assignments and pass the tests.

The MOOC experience, at least for now, might be an experience in learning for the sake of learning.

Which isn't such a terrible thing.

Next time: a little more MOOC madness.

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