Thursday, July 3, 2014

So I'm Taking a MOOC...

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Under a Creative Commons License

Late last week I was innocently checking my Twitter feed, and I saw an announcement for a MOOC called Foundations of Virtual Instruction.  I clicked to investigate, and I was immediately intrigued for several reasons.

  • The course is aimed at learning about K-12 online instruction, which I'm interested in knowing more about.
  • The course is offered through Coursera, a known online learning platform which I have heard and read good things about.
  • The course is offered by an existing higher education institution, the University of California at Irvine.
  • The course lasts five weeks and requires two to four hours of work per week. Perfect for summer learning, especially since I work through the summer.
  • The course is taught by an instructor who has experience in teaching online in K-12. (You can watch the video on the course info page to learn more about her.)
  • I can take the course for FREE, but for a small fee I can also earn a verified certificate that proves I have completed the coursework. (More about this below.)

So, I found out about this course late last week and made the decision to jump in and sign up a couple of days before the course started on June 30th.

My Experience So Far
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I will sum up my experience so far with the sophisticated phrase: "It's been really cool!"

Here is what I have liked:
  • The course syllabus clearly communicates what is expected and how the course grade will be calculated.
  • The video lectures are professionally created and presented in short chunks and are interactive! During the videos, pauses are built in which ask you to type in a short answer or to answer a multiple choice question based on what you are learning. I don't know if data is kept on these questions, but they are excellent for giving the learner an opportunity to reflect on what they are learning.
  • I have the option to earn a verified certificate for a small fee. I signed up for the verified certificate trial so I could evaluate the quality of the course and my likelihood of completing it (I've started a couple of MOOCs in the past and not made it through...) before paying any money. 
  • They are serious about the verification thing! I had to take a headshot of myself with my webcam and input a typing sample that would identify me by my unique typing pattern prior to taking the first quiz! Apparently, I will have to do this each time I take or turn in any assignment in the course that is graded. This is more verification than I had to do for the online master's degree I completed four years ago!
  • This course is the first in a set of courses that build upon each other. If I complete all four courses and earn verified certificates for each of them plus complete a capstone project, I can earn a Specialization Certificate from UC Irvine and Coursera. Coursera and its partner organizations currently offer 10 different specializations. It's not the same as college credit, but it is cost effective and shows your current or prospective employer that you are serious about continuously educating yourself.
  • Based on the activity in the discussion forums, there are over 200 people in this course, and they are literally from all over the world! It's fascinating to see all of these people, in some cases to get a piece of their story, and along the way learn from their insights.

The one big challenge for me...

  • Did I mention over 200 people? It may be many, many more than that; there is no official listing of the members of the course that I have found. The discussion boards became overwhelming to me within the first two days. People posting literally all the time from time zones around the world. The discussion boards are not required as far as the grade for the course goes, but they are highly encouraged in order for participants to engage more with the material. I want to engage with others, because I'm that kind of learner. I'm going to have to make peace with the fact that I can't read everyone's contributions, and much like I do on Twitter, I will just catch and interact with a few. I have managed to have more interaction on the "unofficial" open discussion boards which are not based on course content. So hopefully that will continue to be a place for connection.

So far, so good! The positives are definitely outweighing the challenges four days in to the course. Based on my experience thus far, I think Summer 2014 might see me complete my first MOOC. I will keep you posted!

Have you had any experiences with MOOCs? If so, I'd love to hear about it! Please leave a comment below. :-)

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.