mooc: Tell Stories with Data

I participate in MOOCs because this is an interesting new approach to education. Although the subject is interesting, the process is what I want to learn about.

I have participated in several others and getting participants to start is always challenging. If the facilitators do too much at the beginning, then it is just another online course. If this is a good MOOC, then everyone needs to step up and take responsibility for their own learning, and for their assigned group.

The story so far…

Your Mission: Tell Stories with Data

Some good and interesting ideas, but too cute. The introductory emails didn’t immediately identify the course. What is this stuff?

Then another weird message that turns out to be the kick off of the course. It has some explicit instructions about team tasks but doesn’t make it clear that this is also the list email address for the team that I have been assigned to.

Today I got a second email from ? another team member suggesting that we introduce ourselves. Good suggestion. According to the directions this should have been done Monday or Tuesday and it is now Friday of a 4-week course.

I understand the problem. Teaching early distance learning courses required a lot of learning, getting students set up to do the course work, familiar with the systems, and understand the process. Lots of “guide on the side” support, low-stakes activities to ensure that everyone was on board. Although we still do this in my online courses, most students have had one or more online courses so this is just a sync point, not a major learning experience as in the past.

Having participated in the actual “first MOOC” with Stephen Downes et al, many people were really uncomfortable with everything related to the course at the outset. The facilitators were really out on the bleeding edge and had cooked up something quite innovative based on their beliefs about the ubiquity of the internet, the depth and breadth of open resources, the generosity and capability of learners and what education can be if it is set free.

What a thrill! Thousands of people “got it” in their own way. Some participated in heavy, thoughtful academic style discussions. Some were baffled by the lack of structure and “correct answers” and a single authority figure. With some quick thinking and fast programming, some of the structural issues were resolved with software that gathered work of participants all over the web and combined them into daily emails with links to those locations. Brilliant!

Others, like yours truly were following the process understanding that here was the promise of universal access to education for self-directed learners everywhere.

So that said, it will be interesting to see how this MOOC progresses. Some good ideas – email to a list with all team members at the outset.

cbb –  In the courses emails, identify that this email is the start of the course you signed up for. Say that this email address is the list for your team, there are x team members. Needs a better explanation of the first assignment – teaching process here, content is secondary until everyone has a better idea about the process – not easy in 4-weeks.


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