If you ever read my last blog, you will have seen various posts about the online MSc course I was working through during the last three years. You will have also seen that I was not always very positive about the experience. Thus is it was interesting, just as I was graduating from that course, to see the increase in press coverage for MOOCs and the increasing adoption of ‘free’ online course programmes such as coursera.org.
The major question for me is how, in these course formats, the instructor/tutor role is formed and the level of socialisation with other students. At times my MSc was limited to working through materials with some discussion board or synchronous chat. This, to me, is eLearning as has existed for some time and in many ways a replication of a lecture-heavy instructional design. Indeed accessing static eLearning materials will be familiar to many from the workplace and there are plenty of examples online, including via Alison.
The real value of an educational experience is often the support of experts and your peers in giving a context to your learning. I fear many large-scale courses are not managing this well. For example, my recent MOOC experience of Google’s Power Searching with Google MOOC, which contained some good instructional video and useful activities, struggled with a very ‘noisy’ discussion platform. Do you then start to select entrants, as traditional university courses have, to try and ensure a higher quality experience? Alternatively do you deliver static materials as a way to advertise what is possible for a fully supported experience, in the form of open course ware rather than open courses.