At the end of January I decided to join coursera to see first hand what a MOOC looked like. I enrolled in Fundamentals of Online Education. Enrollment was very easy but once I was in the course things started getting very confusing. The instructor had posted instructions to the effect that I should add myself to a group by posting in a forum. But the group must have less than 20 people so I had to find a forum group with less than 20 posts and post in it or create my own group and wait for 19 other fellow students to join it. It was very confusing as there were groups with widely varying numbers of posts well over 20 and they seemed to be named after geographical locations or particular interest groups. I joined the group Non-Profits rock as I felt I had to join something.
Over the next few days I received a number of emails from the instructor to the students of the course. They basically tried to address why the course was a shambles. Soon after that I received a more conclusive notification from Coursera explaining that the course had been suspended.
I then found this blog post which forensically details the problems the course had suffered from and how they were addressed by the course instructor. It’s a very good read and does actually provide some practical tips on the fundamentals of Online Learning.
This link directs to an post about two big problems with online college courses. They are as follows:
1. Online College courses have a very high attrition rate. In some cases 90% of the students who enroll drop-out.
2. Online college courses are inappropriate for struggling college students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment.
The estimate of 90% drop out rate applies to MOOCs. They are free and can be joined on a whim. Daphne Koller in her TED talk discusses how with a free and accessible online course there will be many who enroll due the consequence free nature of it. Many of these early enrollers lose interest or find they do not have time and drop-out. Those that remained are more dedicated and genuinely enthusiastic about learning. She also makes the point that even with this huge drop out rate a MOOC can still reach considerably more students that a traditional physical course. The video of her talk at UC Davis is below.
Part when she addresses high drop out rate is at 54:10.
Part when she addresses 7:70.
So I accept that there is a high drop out rate but I also think this actually highlights a more significant positive aspect of online courses; accessibility to those who are genuinely eager to learn.
The second point that online courses are inappropriate for struggling students actually highlights a problem with resource distribution in Colleges. Surely online courses will free up more time for tutors and lecturers to focus on helping struggling students. Also I would contend that if an online course has been designed and developed so that only able students can engage with it then it needs to be evaluated and improved.
Also it may also be suggested that one of the real questions posed by online courses may be that when students are provided with the opportunity of enrolling in any course they want, will that lead to more students pursuing an education they are passionate about and reduce the overall number of struggling students in college education?
Two online tools for developing interesting infographics: http://infogr.am which creates interactive infogrpahics and http://storify.com for authoring articles using social media information and other online content. I am interested in developing a dynamic info-graphic which can update itself with up to date data along similar lines to something David McCandless displays during his TED talk.
The class was largely an ice-breaking session to help the newly formed groups to work together. Ice breaking activities included building a structure that could support an egg using only newspaper and tape. Our group won the initial egg structure activity and I think my main contribution was some nice tightly rolled newspapers and the reinforcement if the thin tripod legs with extra paper and tape at the weak points. We won this activity.
The second activity was a treasure hunt in the surrounding Merrion Sq area. We didn’t fare so well in the second activity as far as I know. I went outside looking for the Rutland Memorial on Merrion Sq but I returned too late to see who won. This second activity did teach me the importance of time management. If our group had split up in to two groups from the start we would have fared better. But it was good fun and effective in breaking the ice. And now I know where the Georgian museum and the Rutland Memorial are: