Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Have you tried MOOCS? What did you think?

As I mentioned in passing a little while ago, I have been watching the emergence of Massive open online courses (MOOCs) with interest. They continue to be all the rage in the university sector. Now they are spreading into other parts of education and training. I can see why MOOCs may disrupt, change, existing teaching systems. However, I have been wondering about the economics of the whole thing, as well at the educational aspects.

MOOCs are, in fact the latest in a series of changes dating bask to at least the early eighties (I first wrote about the process around 1983) that mark the progressive commercialisation and industrialisation of the services sector. I may be wrong, but I suspect that my regular readers are unlikely to be interested in MOOCs as device for personal learning. Still, I wondered if I could find anyone who has had personal experience with MOOCs.

If so would you like to tell me about it? Did you start and then stop? What were the things that you most/least liked about the process? This information would help me cross-check my own views.


I am going to leave this post up until Saturday to see if I can get more. In the meantime, a colleague wrote in another forum:

Yes I have tried one. I did an online course with Steve Blank on How to Build a Lean Startup . He lectures at Stanford and I did the course through Udacity. It was excellent! 

In response to a question, Ian added:

It was well presented. it was nicely broken up into modules. There were some review questions in each section. And I felt I was getting as good as I would've got in a face to face lecture. The material was stimulating. There was extra reading to do from a set text book. So it was a very positive learning experience.


My Observations said...

I am not sure if the International Coaching Academy is a type of MOOCS, but I think it might be. If you qualify it as such than my experience of studying to be a certified professional coach has been very positive. The high level of knowledge and experience of international facilitators (pardon the disliked word), flexibility of timing to take lectures and seminars, high degree of interaction with fellow students, comprehensive assessments, discussions, assignments, were all impressive to me. I started and I finished the course in my own time without one thought of quitting. I had fun and I have learned.
Can this method be used to replace university courses? I think it might augment them. With time introduction of new even better than today technologies will change our world even more.

Jim Belshaw said...

I had to look ICA up, AC, to check the courses. It is an interesting example of an internet based system, but its still a traditional model delivered in a new way. I don't mean that as a criticism.

The key features of MOOCs are massive, open and on-line. Whereas ICA sessions involve classes of 10-15, a MOOC could technically involve hundreds of thousands. By its nature, its mass.

Nathan Lindorff said...

I'm a little late on this one, but I have done and am doing MOOCs at the moment. The first one would have been ~2 years ago. It was on the subject of Machine Learning, and would have been one of the first ones that gained any public attention (hence how I found out about it.) From memory it was about 10 weeks (+/-2 weeks). It was fairly hard work, and took 10+ hours a week to watch the lectures and do the assignments. That was quite tough with a full time job and a young family. I took it mainly as a way to broaden my horizons. Likewise the ones that I am currently doing through Coursera (Which was what came out of the initial course). One is "Introduction to Guitar", and the other is "Songwriting". Again, both of these are moreso for my own interests and learning than any particular long term goal. These ones are shorter and don't take as much time.

Overall, I have really enjoyed them. The way that they have been presented, with the lectures broken up into watchable chunks (~10 max usually), the quizzes on each lecture or topic, has made it quite approachable. I think the fact that there are regular assignments with regular deadlines helps for someone like me with a tendency to procrastinate! Other online learning things I have done haven't had that, and it is easy to just let them slide.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Nathan. I appreciate your response.

What form did the assignments take? Just the short question and answers to test knowledge? What was the course material outside the lecture modules? Were there other support things like forums?

Nathan Lindorff said...

There have been a lot of similarities, but a couple of differences.

All of them have had a series of short video lectures that make up one weeks worth of lectures. Most of the courses that I have come across have a non-compulsory question on each video. This does not contribute to the final mark. This can be embedded somewhere in the video, where the video pauses and you are presented with a question, usually multiple choice or enter a value. Alternatively I have seen these presented at the end. These don't come up if you just download the video, which most had the option for.

There are also assignments given on each weeks work, usually due 7-10 days from the start of a new section (every week). The assignments tend to be broken down into two types, peer marked and machine marked, depending on the type of course.

All of the programming ones I have undertaken have been machine marked, because there is a defined answer/result that is expected. In the case of the Machine Learning course, the code for the program was submitted to the course, where it was ran to check the result. In the case of another, you ran the program locally through a validation script, which then gave you a chunk of text to submit if you had done it correctly.

For the peer marked ones, there has been a period given after the assignment was due for students to mark a random group of students. This has been five students in my experience, with the opportunity to review more. If one does not participate in the peer review, you don't get given your own mark for that week.
In my case has been the music related ones, and I presume any course where there is not necessarily a 'right' answer, or at least not one that a machine can determine.

While this seems to work ok, I have seen discussions in the forums where people are complaining that they have been hard done by, or the markers have been abusive in their comments. I presume there are reporting mechanisms, but I haven't had call to use them myself.

In most cases a text or texts have been suggested, but not mandatory. There have been additional resources in some cases, such as music loops for the songwriting course, sheet music and tablature for the guitar.

There are also forums, but I haven't actively participated in them, baring once or twice. That's more a bad habit on my part i'm afraid. I tend to be a 'lurker' when it comes to forums!

Jim Belshaw said...

Ntahan, that's very helpful. I am trying to meet a very urgent writing deadline just at present. Will come back when I can raise my head once more!