Lurking in MOOCs

That’s what I’m currently doing, lurking and being a bad student. Skipping class for weeks and then maybe showing up to have a look around. Not doing the assigned work, although this is so expected that the instructor tells the class that only a portion of the enrolled students will do the work. I wrote and reviewed essays in one MOOC, but I’m done with that.

So, what does it feel like to be this kind of student? Considering that I’m not paying for it and that I certainly don’t need any more credentials in retirement, it feels pretty good. I had anguish when I couldn’t finish one of the courses in which I wanted the credential (Programming4Everyone) and formally dropped out so I could come back when I had time to do it right. But in another course where I didn’t need the credential (Warhol), I did do the work and felt more committed. What made the difference? Mostly, I think, it’s not you, it’s me.

The course, commonly referred to in social media as ModPo, is just too close to my field of training (American Modernism) for me to be comfortable as a student. I think. Although poetry does not top my list of favorite literature to read, I like studying it, or I did. I had Modern Poetry courses in grad school, but this reading list was different enough to suck me in. The course started with Whitman and Dickinson—love the former, not so much the latter. I decided to skip away for the Dickinson portion, but now it’s hard to return. Not impossible, just hard. In fact, I’m going in today to see what’s up.

The rest of the reading list seems new enough to me to be of interest and I’ve wanted to see what goes on in the field these days, since my degrees are stale as I learned a few years ago.

The course seems pretty well-designed to engage distant students with lots of videos and live webcasts. They even have meetups, but of course, those are for the big-city dwellers. That there are many students taking the course multiple times says something about the course quality.

Absolutely worst part of the course? That dreadful Coursera mobile app. What the course does to engage students, the app does to disengage them. I keep hoping they will put some effort into making it useful, but I reloaded it after putting it in the trash, and, nope, still bad.

Next worst feature? Discussion forums. I’ve hated those since I taught courses using Blackboard, and they are no better as a student in Coursera. Whether you try the method of reading everything (the road to insanity) or of random serendipity, discussion forums just really turn me off and I am continually amazed that so many people contribute to them. How old is the discussion forum template, anyway? is there no next big thing?

I always wondered about the lurkers in my little online courses, how they expected to pass or learn, why they didn’t talk to me in any of several possible ways. In the MOOC, though, no one really cares if you lurk, and that’s what makes it better for continuing education or dabbling. I’m off to dabble a little right now.

Featured Image Photo Credit: liquidnight via Compfight cc


Categories: academia, course design, free stuff, mobile learning, online learning, open source

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