MOOC – to finish or not?

I just completed week 2 (of 6) of a great MOOC called “Web Science: how the web is changing the world” from the University of Southampton via the new FutureLearn portal. I thought this course would be a good refresher on things that I may not directly need for teaching KS3/KS4 ICT (US Grades 6-10) and haven’t covered myself for many years but still may be able to use/adapt to my own teaching needs. From the first two weeks of the course this is the case. There have been lots of things covered that I have long forgotten, and I’ve been brought up to date with things happening now. I can see how certain facts and links now available would go down well as points with my own students to enhance their learning and understanding of the internet and the social aspects of communication.

Web Science logo

This course is free, as are all the FutureLearn courses. What this means is that it’s easy to join and one therefore has no worries about whether you can do it/can’t do it do have the time/don’t have the time. I read recently, in The Atlantic newspaper an interesting article “Thousands of People Sign Up for Online Classes They Never End Up Taking“(Nov 21, 2013) in which it is claimed that only 2% of those who start an MOOC complete it. With any free course you lose that incentive of not wanting to waste your money. On the flip side however, 2% is better than 0% and if the numbers joining are big then that is still a fair few people learning that may not have done so without the course. Like most statistics this can be contradicted. In a recent article “Online learning: pick a subject, any subject…” (Nov 11, 2013) from The Guardian that looked at what MOOCs are all about they quoted a 10% figure. This figure came from an article in the New York Times, entitled “Students Rush to Web Classes, but Profits May Be Much Later” (Jan 6, 2013).

One of the things that is forgotten s that a MOOC is not necessarily in the same category as a course one has to do/should do to enhance one’s career or CV. They could/may be in the future, but by and large at the moment they are voluntary and for enjoyment/improve one’s personal lifelong learning. I tried a MOOC on Python programming earlier on in the year and just found I didn’t have the time to fit in the reading and tasks so I stopped doing it. I was doing the course simply for my own benefit, not just to tick a box and say I graduated aren’t I great at this. If the motivation I have is the same for others then there is bound to be a big drop-out rate. It is very easy to click on a link that says you will do a course, it is not often easy to maintain the motivation to complete a voluntary course with all the other daily life pressures that there are. There is still the belief that because one did not complete a course (ad pass the final test) then one could not possibly have learnt anything. Even if I stopped the Web Science course today, what I have read and thought about over the past few weeks has been beneficial. Some of the points have been great and I’ll be using them in my own teaching in due course.

On the other side whilst it may de disheartening to the designers/educators of such course, in the main they are courses that are already written and have been slightly modified for this environment. Like anything in teaching designing lessons the first time is time-consuming, but for a lot of subjects they are then tweaked as opposed to being re-written. So if you have a course written, does it really at the end of the day matter if 2%, 10%, 50% or 100% complete it. There is no marking/assignments by the course leaders (on the courses I have taken/am taking) and so if only one person benefits from what has been added then t is should be seen as a success as this is what education is all about.

Any way I’m starting today another MOOC, “England in the time of Richard III” from the University of Leicester and again via FutureLearn. This one’s just for general enjoyment, hopefully I will see it through. However even if I don’t last the course (Christmas is coming) then I will have benefited from anything that I have learnt along the path. So I’m looking forward to it 🙂

RIII Course Image

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