I was very disappointed yesterday when I learned one of the MOOCs I’m taking was cancelled due to student comprehension problems and, let’s be frank, the technologically impaired.
Yes, I am simply saying how I feel. I can do that here. I have never seen so many people unable to use a simple spreadsheet. I have never run across so many folks who did not understand how to use a message board in my life! I also have never seen so many people needing hand-holding due to comprehension problems. One particular example: some people weren’t sure what the assignments were, or how to do them (even though it was spelled out IMHO). Now granted for some folks the comprehension problem was due to not being a native English speaker, but that only accounts for SOME of the problem. A lot of the folks who weren’t getting it — English appeared to be their native language.
It was my favorite MOOC. Sorry #edcmooc! I love you, I do, but the Fundamentals of Online Education course was far more fascinating and challenging for me. I was learning A LOT and had already done three assignments.
This made me realize that there is a downside to MOOCs. While MOOCs may offer a lot of different viewpoints and peer to peer learning through sharing, if people have learning disabilities (where they need to be handheld) and if they’re not tech savvy – the entire learning process breaks down.
This may be one particular failure of MOOCs overall because they assume that students are at least competent enough to read and understand instructions as well as use the technology without difficulty. It also assumes they’re both self-directed and independent learners. I think this last bit is important. In classes of this nature it seems the teacher is merely a moderator or director to the learning. It’s actually up to the student to learn. This gives me a whole new appreciation for the saying, “You get out of an education what you put into it.”
Granted the MOOC environment may be more suited to younger learners who have never known a world where there wasn’t internet and computers in the classroom.
So where does this leave adult learners who may be more resistant to change or their lack of understanding how to use the technology is actually an impairment? It eliminates them from the equation by making them so frustrated that they drop out. That frustration can ultimately make comprehension of a course (even one well outlined with step-by-step instructions like the one above) unlikely.
This does suggest MOOC course design is likely best suited for younger, more technologically savvy people, or it suggests that keeping it simple is key. And by simple I mean no message board navigation, no extraneous links to cause confusion, and a course that hand-holds the student through every step.
I’ve notice the same complaints from some #edcmooc participants. One person asked, “Is there even a course here?” I, being relatively tech savvy and having comprehension skills, cannot even fathom how someone could miss the course. I have learned a great deal in #edcmooc, too. It’s pretty simple. Read the assignments and answer the questions they pose on your blog, or go discuss them on the message boards.
It’s really simple. I should add here that it’s simple for someone like me.
Thank goodness none of the online courses I’ll be designing are MOOCs. I can’t imagine trying to get 40,000+ people on the same page.
So perhaps there are two rules for designing online courses.
- 1. Keep it simple.
- 2. Keep it small.