Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Preparation, offered by Georgia Tech is a six week course. It is designed in much the same way as one would any online course. Each week there are video lectures, suggested readings, assignments and multiple choice quizzes. We are to discuss some questions in the discussion forums and then complete the assignments and quizzes which are graded automatically. The final project is to create your own online class.
The title of the course is filled with irony. Clearly, this course has been ported over from either an existing online or blended course. This has caused some problems as I suspect Coursera and the course management system Размер (CMS) that was originally used have some incompatibilities. For example, links to the video lectures that are found in the weekly descriptions link to huge files that simply won’t play or take much to long to download. However the links to what should be the same files under the Video Lessons tab open smaller, streaming files. Even then the HTML5 versions wouldn’t play correctly on my MacBook Pro and I had to use the Flash versions instead. (go figure).
As I mentioned in the review of the other course, most learning in an online course should happen in peer-to-peer Sinuplasty interaction and that sorting the huge number of students into smaller, more manageable groups was the biggest challenge facing MOOCs. The instructor here is to be commended for recognizing ?Quién that and trying to place students in smaller groups of 20 or so. However, this has been a disaster. First, she tried to have us add our names to groups in a Google Docs spreadsheet. What happens when 40,000 people try to edit a Google Docs spreadsheet? Random chaos, with names appearing, disappearing, groups changing, etc. To say this hasn’t been well received by the students is an understatement. The second attempt had us use a forum to create a group thread and let people self sort. This worked better. I created a thread for Group Music Education and it populated quickly. In fact a little too quickly as we ended up with, at last count, 27 members, which has caused one anonymous member no end of frustration. (Why in the world would someone post as Anonymous in a class with off 40,000 people?) Apparently, for some, this was still too much of a challenge, so now there is a form powered by SurveyGizmo for those who were left out. It was a little frustrating, but it’s also incredibly informative. This sorting must be solved for an MOOC to be successful.
There are some other issues with the course. The first series of lectures were mainly about learning theories Beumer and methodology. The lectures consisted of a poorly designed PowerPoint where half the screen was taken up by a lovely panorama of a city (Atlanta, I assume). There’s too much information on each screen, too many bullets and too many levels. Worse, the instructor reads the slides almost verbatim to us. Things are also going by too quickly for those for whom English is not their first language. The assigned readings were better and for the most part it was all good information. However, since the most of the theories and methods she discussed were rooted in constructivist pedagogy, it would have been nice if that was being modeled, at least a little.
Another issue is with assessment. The first assignment and quiz were both pretty weak. After discussing the content from week one in the forums, we were to complete the assessed assignment, which included a survey and instructions to copy and paste your comment from the discussion forum for which we received 5 points. I’m not sure what the point of this was as there is no way the instructor and her one TA are going to read 40,000 of these. The quiz was standard multiple guess. These to me really are a case of the technology leading the pedagogy and are almost completely worthless. In fact, I’m not really sure how assessment can be accomplished in an MOOC. The only other MOOC I’ve taken really had no assessment, other than peer review. I think that may be all there is, but it is also probably enough.
This class is unlikely to run very smoothly and it has a lot of problems. But for those hoping to learn about online classes and MOOCs specifically, this is a great lesson. I’ve already learned a lot from the negative examples and the other content, while poorly presented, was a good refresher for me and good information for newbies. All in all, this will be very worthwhile.