I’ve pretty much reached the end of my MOOC experience in Curt Bonk’s “Empowering Learning Through Community.” As my previous posts suggest, I haven’t exactly been wowed by the possibilities of MOOCs based on this experience.
I don’t really blame Bonk, at least not much. His course and materials were introductory/basic, so I didn’t really get a whole out of the class. But that’s more my own fault regarding expectations about what I might have been able to get out it. Bonk provided some solid advice and materials that I think would be a useful place to start for someone who has never taught online before who wanted to know a bit about “best practices” and the like, and if we ever pull together a graduate course/program about teaching writing online at EMU, I can easily imagine returning to this stuff.
None of Bonk’s materials are particularly earth-shattering or innovative though. And interestingly, as I think is pretty clear with the videos on his YouTube channel, the “production values” of these lecturers are pretty poor. That strikes me as a bit of a problem or at least weirdly ironic.
As for the whole MOOC thing: forget it. Sure, it’s possible for someone to learn something from a MOOC like this or the efforts from Harvard, MIT, U of Michigan, etc., etc., but you can learn a lot from the history channel or even the food network. Heck, I learn a lot about cooking from FoodTV– and maybe I can even earn badges for it! And then there are these things called books. It seems to me that those are the original massively open tool for potential learning, tools that allow “students” to interact with the material in any way they see fit and at the time of their choosing. When you factor in the costs and technical restraints of online courses, massive and otherwise, seems to me that books are still a better deal.
It’s weird that MOOCs are getting as much press and attention as they are right now, frankly. Just over five years ago, there was a controversy here at EMU about a faculty member in my department teaching these online classes with 100 or so students. I blogged about it here; the problem of this made national news because the idea that you could actually have an online class worth anything with that many students was back then considered ridiculous. Most of the best practice studies I saw back then said that online classes functioned best when enrollment was capped at around 15-20– not unlike face to face classes, by the way. So why is it that now anyone thinks that a “class” with 1000 students– even a free class– would all of a sudden be a good idea?