Saturday, May 12, 2012

5 Things I've Learned From MOOCs About How I Learn

Audrey Watters / May 9 2012 - 5:10pm

Ideally, I suppose, I should headline this post “5 Things I’ve Learned from MOOCs.” That’s likely what a course – massive or online or open or not – is supposed to have a student tout: what I learned.

If I were being really forthright with my readers, I would headline this story “5 Things I’ve Learned from MOOCs as a Serial MOOC Dropout.” That’s certainly a warning that when I speak about my experiences with MOOCs, it’s as a lurker and a dropout.


What keeps me engaged in a class most often is the community. That’s what I’ve learned lately from MOOCs and other online learning experiences. It’s not the class or the subject matter per se, the syllabus, the curriculum, the assignments or assessments, although yes, that’s what prompts me to enroll. I stay or go because of the people.

1 > My peers matter. When the C in MOOC feels like “community,” I’m far happier than when the C feels like “course.” I want to learn and share with others, and I feel most committed to learning experiences where I am responsible not just for my own learning but where I feel connected to and perhaps even responsible to others’.


2 > I don’t like lectures. I recognize this might be a disciplinary distinction. I studied literature. We sit in circles with our books open and talk about what we read. [snip].

I lose interest easily, less so in person I’d say, but certainly when lectures are delivered via online video. I tab out. I have struggled with the Udacity and Coursera courses for this very reason.

3 > The teacher matters. The teacher always matters, of course. Some teachers you like, some you don’t – online or off. Some teachers topics make the dullest topics wonderfully perplex and engaging. [snip]

4 > I rage against robograders . I just completed Week 3’s homework in the Coursera CS 101 class. I had a run-in with the automated assessment that I felt mis-scored my homework. Mistakes happen, I realize, whether a human or a robot grades things. [snip]

5 > The platform matters. [snip]


And here we come around again to #1, learning with others matters to me. I might be in a class of hundreds of thousands of students in a MOOC. But in some ways, the platforms they’re being offered on make me feel really alone. Or rather, it’s just me and a bunch of lecture videos.

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