Thursday, 25 April 2013

Activity 14 Comparing MOOCs #h817open

I chose to compare Change MOOC with Udacity CS253 Web Apps Engineering (now called Web Development), a course I completed and received a high grade.


Udacity CS253 Change MOOC
As might be expected Udacity has invested in a propriety MOOC platform designed to meet its early courses which are mainly in the STEM disciplines.

The MOOC platform is centred around a sequence of lessons each consisting of a series of many short videos (about 20) which are a mix of talking heads, an electronic handwritten whiteboard with narration, in-video quizzes along with instructor notes when needed.

The critical ability to navigate between videos and quizzes has steadily improved over time from the crude next/previous links of the early courses. Within a lesson the student can quickly move to any video/quiz component with a simple click.

A course wiki contains lecture notes and associated written material and links to other material.

The primary interaction locus for student is the forum. 12 months ago this was a fairly standard forum, but it is good to see that a useful structure based around the units and the problem sets not applies. Essentially this is structured hashtagging that allows easy searching for discussions around the main course components.

Of course the main communication timeline from instructors to students is via email.
From the course outline we find participants will use a variety of technologies, for example, blogs, Second Life, RSS Readers, UStream, etc. Course resources will be provided using gRSShopper and online seminars delivered using Elluminate. In other words the participants choose from a wide range of publicly accessible shared communication tools.

Some like Second Life and Elluminate was highly interactive at scale and allow frequent and personal interactions between participants. Elluminate is most effective when used in realtime and offers a way to access an instructor directly.

A real benefit here is that each participant can choose the set of tools with which they are familiar thus substantially reducing the technological friction allowing more time for interaction on the course.


Udacity CS253 Change MOOC
A basic sage on the stage pedagogy is used with the videos/wiki providing the main content delivered from the sage. The MOOC platform guides the student through the linear lesson plan with automatically assessed quizzes and problem sets along the way.

A simple but impressive web-based integrated coding environment is used for some quizzes and scripts provide immediate feedback.

Assessments use the third-party Google App Engine and automated scripts provide feedback if their are problems and the final passing grade when appropriate.

There is some instructor video feedback for common questions and problems determined from forum posts. Some key forum posts receive direct feedback from the instructor or teaching assistants.

Otherwise peer discussion goes on via the structured forum and provides ad hoc peer interaction. Some natural student groups form in external social media such as Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.
Being a course spread over 36 weeks with over 30 invited speakers it is difficult to compare with a 7-week xMOOC. The range of speakers and topics was hugely impressive and covered all leading-edge work in instructional technology. Probably most participants would choose the topics of direct relevance leading to highly personalised learning.

The highly relevant daily newsletter created with significant effort by the course facilitators contains a topic and relevant recent blog posts and tweets from participants - together these form a large course archive for use beyond the course.

From his keynote at THETA13 The Higher Education Technical Agenda conference in Hobart Alec Couros gave a very succinct description of the pedagogy on cMOOCs:

General approach and philosophy

Udacity CS253 Change MOOC
This was a practical course with well-prepared, very short videos which could be consulted and repeated easily as often as necessary. I found the forums useful to help solve problems particularly with the practical work. Even though I had taught a very similar course myself I learned a considerable amount.

For students in control of a study discipline and a willingness to consult their peers when running into problems this traditional approach is highly effective. Student with insufficient background will drop out having received an appreciation of the required standard and been given the opportunity to repeat at a later time.
Those participants who make it through the course not only receive a thorough understanding of the current state of ed tech they have effectively built a personal learning network. The latter will encompass a wide range of creative skills using publicly accessible cloud apps together with the momentum to continue to interact with the cohort of active course participants. They will have absorbed the philosophy for their own course of providing just a skeleton course structure and have the students fill out the content most relevant to them.