posted Aug 25, 2013, 5:23 PM by jj pionke
I am a fan of MOOCs, but like all online learning, you need to be really invested in it and you need to be very disciplined about time management.  It's always easier to go to a physical classroom and listen to the teacher lecture or lead a class discussion than it is to do online work because the amount of time required varies usually from week to week.  As an online teacher myself, I try to vary the weeks so that the assignments aren't the same two weeks in a row and that light and heavy weeks alternate.  At any rate, I finished the David Lankes MOOC on New Librarianship.  It was a fun and interesting.  There wasn't much there that I haven't already thought about but I think that has more to do with my interdisciplinarity anything else.

At any rate, this all got me started thinking about MOOCs in general.  I like MOOCs because they offer me a structured way to learn about topics that I find interesting and right now at least, I can do that learning for free.  Are they the wave of the future?  I would like to think that they are.  That said, I am not sure how well they will thrive where the labor of creating the class on the teacher's end is done for free right now.  It's just not sustainable.  At the moment, MOOCs are shiny and new so people are willing to count them for all sorts of things, in part because of the prestige and shiny factor but more and more MOOCs are being offered and various universities/entities are experimenting with monetizing them.  Lankes MOOC for example was put on by the ischool at Syracuse.  I finished the class and got a certificate of completion but if I had been willing to pay a relatively small fee, I could have gotten CEUs or if I was willing to pay the tuition price, I could have gotten college credit from isyracuse.  The CEU and credit options included an extension on the class to write a paper that the professor would then grade.  Could that be a major problem in the future?  You bet.  What if 10,000 people signed up for the course and 1,000 handed in papers.  Do you know how long that would take to grade?!  As it is, that is not that much of a major problem because the number of people that actually complete a MOOC is relatively small.  Say 10,000 people sign up.  By the time you hit week 2, you might be down to 200 and by the time you hit the last week, you might be down to 40.  Undoubtedly, the number varies from MOOC to MOOC depending on how hard the material is but this kind of attrition is common in regular online classes.  My online classes start full with say 25.  By midterm, I am usually down to 9-12 and by end of term somewhere between 7-10 depending.  I've had semesters where the numbers were higher and lower.

Still, for a person like me - highly motivated to learn, curious, intellectual, and willing to work hard - MOOCs are awesome.  I've signed up for three more.  There is no telling that I will complete any of them, but they are all in topics that I find interesting.  One of the positives I see about MOOCs is that yes, if my semester is too insane, I can simply stop and I won't lose out on tuition money and for the most part, I can always go back and finish it later (though I might not get the certificate of completion).