(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me

What Makes this MOOCaholic Complete MOOCs

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I’m going to keep this post as short and punchy as possible, to get it out quickly. It is part of a new emerging research project for #rhizo14 that arose out of several different threads, including reaction to Martin Weller’s recent post in stats for MOOC completion rates.

Thanks to Sarah and Sandra (can’t find her post, though) for starting this series of blogposts

My view is that reasons for completion vary so much with context that the stats hide too much

Four categories of reasons that influence my personal completion (or not) of a MOOC are:
1. Personal circumstances
2. Technical/logistical issues
3. The format of the MOOC
4. The quality of the MOOC itself

Personal circumstances
Once it was just that the MOOC would coincide with the time i was finalizing my PhD, or during a time I travelled, or when my kid got sick. Nothing to do with th MOOC itself. Of course, the longer a MOOC is, the more likely it will interfere with personal circumstances and make it unfinishable for me. BUT, if it is a really good one, and really flexible (see below) I might stick with it in spite of all that. This was the case for #rhizo14 and the MOOC actually became my escape from the personal issues, rather than some burden on top of them.

Technical/logistical issues
I mostly MOOC from my iPad while on the go. Coursera works fine for that. Twitter and facebook and google plus are great for that (but I still don’t “get” google plus to be honest). Other platforms like EdX and CourseSites do not work well on iPad, and so if there is loads to do on them with dates, etc., I won’t have enough free PC time to do them (of course I sit on a PC most of the time at work but I am actually working, not MOOCing). Also stuff that requires flash won’t work on iPad (don,t have the needed browser and don’t think i will buy it for MOOCing!) so same issue.

Everyone who knows me well online knows I am also very allergic to synchronous audiovisual stuff and to videos in general. Too many family commitments and infrastructure issues to deal with. Most MOOCs don’t, or have transcripts, or record hangouts, etc. Twitter chats like for #nwoer were great, I could do some of those occasionally.

The format of the MOOC
I have discovered that I dislike too much rigidity in a MOOC. But most MOOCs with peer review assignments have rigid deadlines for that reason. It worked for me with #futureed coz the MOOC Topic was v relevant to me so i wanted to do the assignments and did not find them taxing. But did not work for a stats MOOC – too much work

I also prefer MOOCs with high potential for social media interaction and with enough people on the social media to benefit from that interaction. Definitely the case for #edcmooc, #rhizo14 and to a lesser extent (but v high quality interactions) on #futureed

The quality of the MOOC itself
The question of quality is complicated.Very low quality MOOCs can be easy to “complete’. A cMOOCish thing like rhizo14 has no particular definition of success and I like that – it fits with the ethos of the course as we each define what success means to us. All MOOCs should be like that. For me, #flsustain was very good and useful for me, but I did not complete it because that was never my objective. I just wanted to get some resources and meet some people, i blogged a bit, tweeted a bit, downloaded some stuff, got some great ideas, and left ๐Ÿ™‚

I also realized i lately do better at MOOCs most directly related to my professional interests – so education mainly. But also ones that meet those interests in ways I like ๐Ÿ˜‰ like social media, like being a bit flexible (#edcmooc had just one assignment and that is flexible enough for me)

Some MOOCs suck me in completely like #rhizo14, others do it quite well but do not take over my life like #edcmooc. Others, I engaged with non-traditionally like #FutureEd (barely watched videos, read some articles, didn’t post much on the forum but engaged a lot on twitter and blogs, plus the organized #moocmooc twitter chats)

more important than anything, for me, is the connections with wonderful people like the rhizi14 gang, and someone like Shyam with whom I just wrote this article: Bonds of Difference: Illusions of Inclusion
Anyway that’s it from me for now ๐Ÿ™‚

Looking forward to whatever comes out of this ๐Ÿ™‚

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Author: Maha Bali

Associate professor of practice, American University in Cairo

5 thoughts on “What Makes this MOOCaholic Complete MOOCs

  1. mine will be way more of a ramble but I can certainly identify with more than a few elements — especially ones rarely considered North American problems — access and connectivity. ย Few (including educators who ought to know better) take note of access/connectivity issues in inner cities and remote rural areas. Ironically, both are often not just food deserts but learning ones as well.ย 

    I used to do more set up, getting ready for a course. Now that I have my “how to pack for a MOOC” drill down to a minimum, mostly I register, join at least one social media support group and leave it up the MOOC to engage me. Even then, getting sidetracked is always likely, possibly because I no longer have the same professional imperative and freedom to wander, electronically if not literally

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  2. PS forgot to add — a post by Wolfgang Greller on MOOC engagement. He compares four different MOOCs (topic and structure) that engaged him when so many others had not to see what characteristics they shared. T

    Unfortunately, since the last time I checked in, Wolfgang has moved — institution, platform, page — complicating search no end. Then, at first, I couldn’t find on my feed reader either.

    Not the one I’m looking for but related, MOOC Migrants, 2011 http://www.greller.eu/wordpress/?p=1904

    Eureka! MOOCs I liked, 2013http://www.greller.eu/wordpress/?p=3799

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  3. Hey Vanessa, I wrote one comparing 4 MOOCs in a peer reviewed journal and it still isn’t out! Thx for those links, though

    • I don’t doubt there’s already a recognized subgenre. Just thinking about the computational possibilities (number of moocs available/4 x academic mooc takers) made me dizzy.

      The excuse to look up Wolfgang again was a plus for me. Last drop in (surf-by), he was in Wales but is now in Vienna.

      Go looking for almost anything and serendipity — what you find or learn on the way — is the real treasure, to share, not hoard. Maybe that is another lesson or symbolic layer to the myth of dragons guarding treasure.

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