Sunday, July 27, 2014

Still MOOCing Along...

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Week 4 of the Foundations of Virtual Instruction MOOC I started on June 30th is wrapping up today. By this time next week, I will hopefully have successfully completed my first MOOC.

Overall, it's been an interesting experience. Because I've completed an online masters degree, read extensively on virtual learning, taken an online course in facilitating virtual PD courses, and even helped design and facilitate a few online staff development courses in my school district, much of the content covered has been somewhat familiar to me. The upside of this has been my ability to focus more on the experience than the content in the course.

Quick Updates

In case you read my post on starting this MOOC, or if you decide to go back and read it, I'll update a few of my early observations:

  • The 2 to 4 hours per week of work was a pretty accurate estimate. I've spent that much time on the content most weeks. Closer to 2 hours than 4.
  • After a couple of weeks in the course and success on the quizzes, I decided to go ahead and pay for the Coursera Signature Track option, which will allow me to earn a verified certificate.  I'll put this on my CV/resume at some point and we will see if this makes any difference in future employment endeavors I might pursue.
  • In my last post, I estimated there were about 200 people in the course based on activity in the discussion forums. Boy, was I off on that estimate! At the end of our first week in the class, the instructor sent us an update letting us know that there were over 12,000 people enrolled in the course!

New Observations and Thoughts

I'm really glad this hasn't been a full-blown college course. I had to say goodbye to a very precious pet during the second week of the course and have also been fighting allergies or something for the past week, so my enthusiasm for learning hasn't been what it normally is.

Although I've spoken to others who've taken MOOCs that they felt were the equivalent to college courses, I think this course is a pared down version. There is a ton of material in the lectures each week, but the assignments have not been super challenging. Multiple choice quizzes that make sure we are understanding the content which are between 8 and 10 questions each week plus one assignment where we had to turn in a lesson plan and then assess three of our peers plans have not been too demanding. And in the end, if things did become too overwhelming, I could have quit. No GPA to worry about. No harm, no foul. The no GPA part is good, because the final exam coming this week might be a challenge, given that I haven't been as focused a student as usual (see previous paragraph).

I do need to make an A in the course though if I want to keep open the option of doing an 11 week practicum with UC Irvine after finishing three more Coursera courses. Fingers crossed!

Discussion Boards Weren't So Bad

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In my previous post I mentioned that the discussion boards were going to be a challenge, and that I would have to be ok with participating in conversations while missing a whole lot of others at the same time. Well, the discussion boards did become the most interesting part of the course for me, but not in the way that I thought they would. I found myself hardly participating on the boards that were tied to the course content (these were encouraged but not required) and focusing a lot more on tangent topics/conversations started by my fellow students. I've been involved in threads on iPads in the Classroom, a thread that cropped up discussing the usefulness of the legal content presented this past week, and my favorite thread which has been actively discussing the quality of assignments we peer assessed this week.

I was especially interested/distressed to find out that even in MOOCs, people try to cheat! Reports of lesson plans copied entirely from other locations on the Internet (not even in a format that met the rubric) were posted on the discussion board. There is a way to report these in Coursera. I should not be shocked, but I was. I am always disheartened by cheating. Especially from people involved in education!

Reports of cheating aside, I've really enjoyed making connections and hearing the perspectives of people from K-12 to higher ed and from California to New Zealand to Malta. It has been a refreshing reminder of the very large world we live in, how connected it can be thanks to today's technology, and of the similar challenges that face education and educators everywhere.

As I write this, I'm in sixth place in discussion board participation. That's with just 52 posts on my part, which tells you how active the boards are (or aren't) even with 12,000 people enrolled in the course. 

One More Week...

Week 5, the final week of this course, starts tomorrow. After I survive the final exam and finish out the course, I'll be sure to share my final thoughts. Including whether or not I'll go on to the next course in the four course sequence. 

Any other MOOCers out there? I'd love for you to share your impressions/thoughts/experiences in the comments, including links back to your own reflective blog posts. :-)

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.