MOOCs and Carrots

Photo of a bunch of carrots

I’ve just started a free online Coursera course on HCI (Human-Computer Interaction). This is my first time taking an online course and I thought I’d share some of my observations on both the course and on using a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

The HCI course is being run by Stanford University and consists of a number of short video lectures, peer-evaluated assignments and online quizzed. There is a student forum, free access to software to help with the course, and lots of text and videos to support the general interaction with the course.

The first thing that struck me about the HCI course itself was how much it will complement my existing work as an e-learning technologist in the accessibility field, as well as there being similarities with the service design approach, which has been part of my Relationship Management work. In fact, there are quite a number of e-learning technologists on the course.

The second thing that really stood out was the wide variety of the types of people from around the world taking the course. Apart from the obvious – students taking this course as a complement to their main study and people in employment upgrading or complementing their existing skills – there are mothers with young children, housebound people, people with disabilities, people who don’t live anywhere near an educational institution that offers such a course, unemployed people, etc. These are very much non-traditional students who would be unable to attend a class in a traditional setting. Perhaps the rise in MOOCs won’t necessarily threaten the current university sector but will complement it by attracting those on the fringes of mainstream education?

There are some differences between attending an educational institution as a real student and as a virtual student. Perhaps the biggest one might be the social and collaborative aspect. If one is motivated to attend class for social reasons (e.g. seeing a different group of people, doing something outside of the normal day-to-day routine, etc), then one may be more likely to continue. However, no-one is going to notice if one hasn’t attended a virtual class! Perhaps one way to encourage attendance in online classes to offer a carrot. In the case of the HCI class, students who successfully complete the course will be awarded a “statement of accomplishment” signed by the tutor and there are grade penalties if you miss assignments or don’t take part in peer evaluation. Not all classes offer this, so it will be interesting to know whether offering a sort of certificate really makes a difference to drop-out rates. If I manage to make it to the end, I’ll let you know!

Carrots photo by vierdrie.

One thought on “MOOCs and Carrots

  1. Hi Sharon

    Will be interesting to see how you get on and thanks for sharing. I also shared my #moocmooc experience on my blog which I found was a great way of reflecting on what I was doing that week. I think your course sounds slightly more sedate than that one, and I am also having a look at a few others too.


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