Tuesday, February 23, 2016

SΩ15 - How to Choose the One...MOOC

The mention of EdTech (Educational Technology) often results in a mixed reaction of intrigue and bewilderment. Here is my interpretation of EdTech; it is any technology that assists in the learning process. In the 21st century this is mostly comprised of online tools and mobile apps. In this post I’ll focus on the popular trend of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

During my bachelors (2007-2010), this trend started with universities across the US offering open courses. Usually, this is a video series of a course from a prominent professor. My go to source was MIT OpenCourseWare. This sparked a parade of MOOC providers into existence, to name a few: Coursera, Udemy, and EdX. These providers soon introduced a broader range of courses, including topics like languages, programming, etc. Now in 2016, with all these possibilities, how to choose one?

Having tried a few courses from the mentioned providers, I’ll help guide you to your next MOOC!
  1. Choose a topic you wish to learn. In my experience, having the motivation to learn a topic prior to the MOOC pushes you to complete it. To stay self-motivated throughout the course can be a challenge.
  2. Now it’s time to find a MOOC. I suggest testing out 2-3 MOOCs from different providers for a few weeks. Here are some search tools: coursetalk, class-central, and mooc-list. The reason for testing a few is because the quality and style of courses can vary greatly from one provider. After 2-3 weeks, choose the one that works best.
  3. When testing, here are a few aspects to compare:
    • Enthusiasm of Instructor(s) – Just like in school/university the teacher/professor often creates the mood of the class and stimulates student engagement. Chances are if the instructor is excited about the topic you’ll be too!
    • Live versus Achieved – Live MOOCs happen over a set period of time and new material is typically presented on a weekly basis. Achieved courses provide all the material at once. The live MOOC tend to provide more engagement and provides a frequent reminder to continue the course.
    • Quiz versus Tasks – Usually a MOOC will have several quizzes or tasks to test your knowledge. Usually the tasks require the user to apply their learning. The quizzes tend to be multiple choice & provide limited learning opportunities. A good MOOC will likely have short, but engaging tasks that take about an hour to complete. If the quizzes/tasks are too difficult from the start, I’d suggest trying another MOOC!
    • Platform for Peer Engagement – While learning many of us will have questions and opinions. It’s great to be able to discuss topics with peers. Those MOOCs that provide a space to discuss with instructors and peers help further learning and boost motivation. Peer assessment and discussions also help to complete tasks.
    • Free versus Paid – Start off with free MOOCs! I’d only pay if there is a trial version & you feel it’s worth it. However, if you pay, do it for the material rather than certificates. My guess is only a few MOOC certificates are valued similar to a qualification indicator.
  4. You get out of it what you put in! Just like an education, job, etc. this especially applies with MOOCs! If you want to try a MOOC, try to put aside 2 or more hours per week. Use the MOOC as a starting point to learn more about a topic. 
As my experience with MOOCs is still developing, please share your thoughts in our slack group.
Join us here: goo.gl/forms/bnm9RIFsyr

Recommended MOOCs:
Chinese Made Easy: An Exciting Start To Chinese
Implementation and Evaluation of Educational Technology

MOOC Search Tools:

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