Cautiously trying out a MOOC

We are now starting a MOOC on open education (feel free to join in if you like), which forms parts of a module I am studying for my MA in Online & Distance Education. This represents an interesting experiment – running a course that is part of a qualification as a truly open section – anyone who wants to is free to drop in for part or all of it.

I may as well admit up front to being a bit of a MOOC sceptic at present. In fact, in a previous blog post I compared them to overseas call centres, self-service tills and other aspects of modern life where automation simply goes too far. But there is no question that they are changing the way we think about education, probably for ever, and I am looking forward to experiencing for myself what all the fuss is about.

Nonetheless, at this stage and given my experience of this section of the course so far, the questions in my mind are multiplying:

  • We have to work at building a sense of community even in our restricted tutor groups. Will it be feasible at all to build it with a large population,      some of whom have only joined for this section?
  • Are formal and informal learners going to bring different attitudes to the course or not?
  • Prof Weller’s introductory video cheerfully told us that the blog aggregator, a key method of communication, “may not always work”. Is this going to be a solid enough basis for the course to run, or are we going to spend our time trying to make the technology function?
  • The video also reminds us that the course is “unsupported” – we need to rely on our peer group. What impact is this going to have on the quality of the educational experience?
  • Does the lack of support mean that only those with already developed study skills are going to benefit from it?
  • Is it going to get irritating using a course page with adverts for other courses on it?
  • How should providers of accredited courses respond?

So, in the spirit of openness, I will set aside my scepticism. If, by the end of this course, I am closer to answering some of these questions, or understanding them better, it will have been worthwhile.



Filed under H817 Openness and innovation in elearning

2 responses to “Cautiously trying out a MOOC

  1. Deirdre Robson


    I would be interested to know whether you changed your mind at all during the block

    • That’s a very good question Deirdre. I am going to do my H817 EMA on Coursera, which I think will give me the opportunity to explore some of these questions in more depth. I guess I am still a MOOC sceptic in the sense that I don’t think MOOCs will wipe out higher education, but then it seems the hype has subsided and no one really believes that any more. I do see MOOCs as a great tool for CPD and intend to use them this way after my MA.

      I am coming round to the view that the biggest impact of the MOOCs on established HE providers might well be to force them to take online education seriously and raise the quality of what they provide. Recording some lectures and putting them online really won’t cut it any more…

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