(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

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


What Makes this MOOCaholic Complete MOOCs

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 🙂

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 😉 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 🙂

Looking forward to whatever comes out of this 🙂



What’s wrong with FutureLearn?

I want to reflect on my discomfort with FutureLearn as an online learning platform. I love the MOOC I am currently taking on it, offered by U of Nottingham, focusing on sustainability. I love the teaching staff, participants, reflective exercises and the content. But I am frustrated with the
FutureLearn platform.

I think there are two main things that are bothering me:

1. The linearity of the content, the way it is presented boxed up and sequential, where you tick boxes that you’ve finished each part. I would not like this in a normal course I am taking, but I really dislike it in a MOOC, where I am likely to want to dip in and out of different parts. I know I can still do so, but it is more difficult to differentiate the resources from the discussions from the assessments. I can’t see a big picture and this does not suit my learning style.

2. The discussions. I hate that there are no separate discussions that can be a) learner-initiated, and b) searched, threaded, and organized in some better way to allow people to truly interact. The idea of “following” people misses the point that sometimes you want to “follow” a thread and see if people are responding to you (Coursera does this better)

As it stands, I am occasionally dipping into the online discussions if I find anything worth responding to in the top five or so posts by others, or if I have some burning comment to add.

I am resisting following the content sequentially (even though sometimes the sequence makes sense… But I need the flexibility)

Otherwise, I think I will focus more on Twitter and blogging, and see if the facebook group turns out well. At least the Twitter and blogging aspects can be a form of advocacy for sustainability beyond the course.

But FutureLearn: i am so disappointed in the platform. I have experienced many others (WebCT, Moodle, Blackboard, Coursera, Canvas) and this is one of the most uncomfortable for me. I was expecting better because i have great experiences with UK online education (my MEd from U of Sheffield, and Edinburgh’s #edcmooc on Coursera), and i thought a UK MOOc platform would be as thoughtful as those experiences, but I don’t like it.

I’m not alone in this, am I? Someone posted on Twitter questioning the sustainability of the MOOC when you find 100s of comments on each topic each day. This is no surprise first week of a MOOC and I expect them to dwindle down over the weeks… But still.. There should have been a better design to help folks deal with info overload. This is a small problem with 20 students but a huge problem with a MOOC