Category Archives: MOOCs

Daniel Stanford

Lessons from My First MOOC: A Student’s Perspective

Earlier this year, I made a resolution to see a MOOC through to the end and earn a verified certificate of completion. I hoped the experience would provide an opportunity to study something completely new while answering a few burning questions I had about MOOCs. Questions like:

  1. How hard is it to earn a verified certificate?
  2. How will Coursera know that I did the work myself?
  3. Will I have to wear a Clockwork-Orange-style eyeball opener to stay awake through the video lectures?
  4. How many ideas can I steal and use when designing my own courses?

Here’s what I learned.

How hard is it to earn a verified certificate?

Not hard. So far, I’ve been able to meet the minimum requirements for the verified certificate by putting in one to two hours per week. As long as I get a perfect score on all the quizzes, I can earn a certificate “with distinction” and never participate in a single discussion or peer-reviewed activity. If I could bear the shame of a distinction-free certificate, I’d only need to maintain a B average on the quizzes. It’s also worth noting that all of the quizzes in my MOOC could be retaken once with no grade penalty, and only a minor penalty on the third and final attempt. Continue reading

Sharon Guan

Under the Dome: What a Documentary on Air Pollution Taught Me about Instructional Design

More than 100 million views in less than 48 hours!   This is the growing count of viewing record of Under the Dome, a documentary on air pollution in China, which aired online on Feb 27th.   It was produced by renowned investigative journalist Chai Jing, who used her own money—more than $156,000—to fund the production.

After watching this one-hour-and-forty-minute-long recording, I felt that calling it a documentary was overrated. This “recording” does not possess any signs of cinematography–no visual effects, no theme music, and no artistic post production. It’s merely a TED talk with a lecturer in the front and a PowerPoint presentation displayed in the background—in short, a recording of a lecture.

From the instructional design perspective, both methods–the long lecture and the PowerPoint–are not innovative. Yet, I found myself captivated by this presentation not only because of the sensitivity of the topic and the charisma of the speaker, but also by the “ways” that the “instruction” was designed.  I call it “instruction” because the producer declared three very clear educational goals at the beginning. Chai Jing’s goals were to educate her audience on the following: 1. What is smog? 2. What caused it? 3. How do we deal with it? From constructing fundamental knowledge, to calling for specific actions, this recording addressed all learning objective levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy: Continue reading

Sharon Guan

Becoming a Learning Coach with DESIRE

The concept of a “learning coach” was introduced by Dr. Jose Bowen during his keynote speech at the 2014 DePaul Annual Teaching and Learning Conference while discussing the new role of a college professor.  When the knowledge held in the brain of a professor can no longer compete with the phone that is in the hand of a student, as he humorously pointed out, maybe it’s time to think about what makes a professor the most valuable.  During his presentation, Dr. Bowen called everyone’s attention to a painful reality: the vastly available content delivered through the Internet free of charge is depriving the professor of the privilege of being the knowledge owner and resource!  The value of a “residential” professor—verses the ones teaching to the world via the Internet—lies in the fact that s/he can be actively involved in the learning process with the students by monitoring and guiding them to the end result.  That role, as Bowen put it, would be a “learning coach”. Continue reading

Sarah Brown

IDD Book Club: Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Do you remember the dread of reading books “for school”? As a former high school English teacher, I remember feeling conflicted about book selections because I feared that the “for school” designation would automatically turn students off to a book they might like in other circumstances, no matter how hip and non-worksheet-y the accompanying assignments (Make a soundtrack for the book! Create a children’s book version of the same story with pictures and everything!).

I often find myself falling into the same trap with “for work” reading. I’m genuinely interested in reading about topics related to my job — Cynthia Selfe’s  “Multimodal Composition — Resources for Teachers” is a fantastic book, for example, but these aren’t the types of books I turn to for those 20 minutes of unwinding time before my head hits the pillow.

To my delight, though, my current “for fun” reading, Thunderstruck by Erik Larson, is striking the perfect balance of telling a compelling narrative and making connections to my professional life. Continue reading

Sharon Guan

From Content Critical to Content Cheap: The Change of Online Course Value

In the December issue of the Campus Technology magazine, Gerry McCartney, CIO at Purdue University, was cited in “What Will Happen to MOOCs Now that Udacity Is Leaving Higher Ed?” for his response to the downward spiral of the MOOC.  McCartney “applauded the MOOC makers for demonstrating that ‘content has almost no value…”, and when it comes to the value of this type of education, “the money is not in the content”.

McCartney believes that the learning experience delivered through a MOOC is like learning from watching The History Channel. It is merely access to content—a low-value type of education.  In his opinion, one can get the best Chaucerian professor to publish a book for everyone in the world to read, but it is impossible for the same professor to offer a class to teach everyone in the world because learning requires personal interaction. Personal interaction, as Gerry McCartney points out, is the high-value type of education—something that is not scalable in a MOOC.

Continue reading

Sharon Guan

Sex and MOOCs

The commonality of sex and the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is they both are very attractive: while the former has been attractive since the beginning of mankind, the latter has become a “hottie” within the last year or so.   In the past few months, the two concepts caught my attention through parallel encounters: one from a book about late-life adventures in sex and romance by Jane Juska, the other through a series of diaries published by instructional designers at the University of Sheffield on their research and implementation of MOOCs.

Although vastly different in genre, content, audience, and purpose, Juska’s A Round-Heeled Woman and the diaries of Sheffield’s MOOC experiences intertwined and interacted in my mind. They reminded me of the joy of learning through narratives and stories.

As someone with an instructional design background, I shouldn’t be surprised to see that learning happens as an outcome of both casual and intentional experiences. Many learning theorists, from John Dewey to Art Chickering, claim that learning is a result of interaction and connection, and after reading both Juska’s book and the MOOC diaries, I felt a desire to share some of concepts I encountered: Continue reading