“Yawn … weird creativity and very banal” — Peer Reviewer of my Week 4 assignment, Old Globe MOOC
I’m a veteran of many MOOCs — from the clearly philosophically open PLENK2010 (one of the Siemens, Downes, and Cormier original “cMOOCs”) to the more traditional course-like Stanford AI (of the type now known as “xMOOCs”). With the hybridization of MOOCs, Conole has developed a framework for mapping MOOCs across twelve dimensions. You’ll see those below and my mapping for the Old Globe MOOC which I think rises far beyond the so-called “xMOOC” because of the emphasis on communication and reflection but is hampered by what could be better designed multimedia and more open structures for sharing by participants (related to learning pathways, degree of collaboration, and autonomy dimensions).
Sarah Kagan, Anne Sullivan, and their team worked tirelessly to encourage engagement and discussion by participants. Sarah, in particular, showed a graciousness through the expert interviews, webcasts, and Twitter that really encouraged community. Here’s a comment that expresses a common response:
I know there are over some 9000 people enrolled but somehow when Sarah and Anne do their video segments it seems more personal and almost like a small group. I don’t really feel that way with most moocs I have taken. — Stephen in “Thank You, Sarah and Anne” Week 5 Forum
Also, I still marvel at the depth of some of the forums (“Is that All There Is? Week Two forum is a memorable one) which were really expertly moderated. So kudos to the team that made this a MOOC a successful learning experience for thousands of participants worldwide.
More on the multimedia content and opportunities for openness . . .
There were several comments on the “Feedback” Forum on the need for more content beyond the video resources to meet the needs of a widely diverse audience (Jenny Mackness writes of this). Roseanne and Margaret advocated for readings suggested by the experts while Edith commented that she “enjoyed the relatively free-form nature of this course.” This is where the learning pathways dimension comes in, and I think that a bit of support or scaffolding with suggested readings for initial or further study is just good teaching practice and may be used by participants as preferred.
The video segments with experts might serve this diverse audience better if the welcome for the week introduced the question and key issues, concepts, and terms. I’d suggest that the expert interview, which had a really casual, warm, inviting feel, might work better as thematic clips of say, no more than 7 to 8 minutes.
I really enjoyed creating my own digital stories to meet the weekly assignment of sharing something from the Web (from study to comic) that would then prompt the participant’s reflections on the week’s question. I just wish that these resources could have been shared with everyone. I think there’s a simple solution that would require a change in the Coursera model.
This change would also affect the peer review model with which I have a love-hate relationship. I loved reading the weekly responses of five peers and really enjoyed engaging in the type of conversation (that’s what Heather called it in a Week 2 forum, “100-250 Word Evaluations”) that the Old Globe leaders encouraged with their prompts:
What do you think about this participant’s portfolio item choice to answer this question of the week?
How does this participant’s perspective differ from your point of view?
How is your point of view similar?
Many of the responses were compelling stories about ageing that touched me on a personal level, e.g., the Japanese father’s legacy of ageing well to very intellectually stimulating perspectives on ageing in societies around the world. In one week’s responses, I noted responses from one Korean, one Australian, one Brit, and two Americans. It truly was a rich opportunity to gain a more global perspective on an incredibly important issue.
I learned of so many relevant resources from the assignments — resources that really would have been great to share with everyone. I always tweeted these and archived them to a Diigo group but I’m sure those who don’t tweet would have missed them. Many excellent studies shared within the assignments did not get shared with the community. I think this reduces the opportunity for us to practice “critically analyzing studies about ageing” as Anne encouraged in the final webcast.
“I feel lucky to have been able to share your creation.” — Week 6 Reviewer
This is where the hate comes in? I and many of my reviewers would begin with a comment on how fortunate we felt that we drew the responses we did. Why though is there this peer review roulette? And why can’t we make this a real conversation where we can respond in turn to the reviewers? That would make the whole process more like, well, blogging and commenting. It would be public and the conversations could continue. I suspect the anonymity in part is why many of us won’t be bringing many lasting relationships from Old Globe as Jenny observed. I also think this grading-sharing tension lessens the development of a sense of community that many of us who don’t really enjoy the forum aspect of a course miss out on.
I worry that when these kind of lasting relationships aren’t created that the opportunity for positive social activism that many of us had hoped for is lost. In an earlier post, I shared Luanne’s passionate call for drawing on the power of the MOOC to crowdsource solutions:
What a better place to start the creative thinking going. This course can be very VERY powerful…if we choose to direct our thinking along this way as well . . .
I realize there’s a logistical need to have participants help with the “quality control” for assignments but this model seems to come at the expense of the ongoing conversations and sharing of resources that a public model would offer. Jenny with comments from Scott and John have also explored alternatives to the Coursera peer review process . . .
What would I propose? A blog-system where each participant would post her weekly assignments and those who sought to earn credit would make substantive comments on the blogs. Coursera already has a summary page for each participant where her comments to the forums are posted, so I don’t think this would be technically difficult to attain. In fact, I’d love to see the blogs open to the world, and I think that tools such as Gordon Lockhart’s content scraper (see iBerry) could possibly help track participation for course completion requirements.
So it’s openness that I’m encouraging and not only for the benefit of learning content but also to provide a safe and supportive environment for Coursera participants to develop important digital learning skills and learn something of the Web culture. Helping older adults learn technology skills that will enable them to communicate and connect with younger people was an important theme in the Week Six webcast. I also think that having 9000 participants sharing resources they learn about through their researching and thinking about the week’s question would result in one incredibly exciting Collaborative Critical Inquiry — a pedagogical pattern where participants research, share, and discuss what they learn through a shared inquiry.
Now, about that “weird creativity” review. I’m a proud #4Lifer of DS106, which really is one big, supportive community of people who love to create and share their stuff. So I’ll wear “weird creativity” as a badge of honor. But I do think that going public with comments would discourage flippant ones and encourage more substantive, helpful ones — of which I got many and I’m very grateful for.
Here are my six “weirdly creative” digital stories produced for Old Globe. When I first read of the MOOC I tweeted that this would be a great opportunity to work on my digital storytelling and that it was. I look forward to a new model that would encourage more sharing of our stories.
Week Six: What do ageing societies need to do to prepare for the future?
Week Five: What are the global implications of ageing?
Week Four: What is it to age well?
Week Three: What is an ageing society?
Week Two: What is it to be old?
Week One: What is ageing?