My MOOC: Seal ‘er up, send ‘er to rest

It’s time to fess up: the MOOC interest I have is gone.  I’ve been hesitating on this for some time, but I think it’s time to put it to rest.  The class officially ends December 10, but I’m not going to move forward any further.

I continued in the class for the first month and a half-or-so… and the format is pretty simple.  As mentioned, it’s a basic task of watching video lectures, reading the assigned text, and writing a short essay every other week.  Not a lot of work to be done that took much time away from my schedule.

Here’s where I falter.  

First, I have no idea why I’m devoting the energy to learn.  For me, there was never a goal to take part in the class other than to write a few blog entries about the experience.  By that measure, I’ve done what I wanted to do, but I’m finding it difficult to maintain interest in the process itself and the coursework.

Second, I had no out-of-classroom experiences to reflect on either process or the material.  The latter point, of being able to talk (out loud!) about course material, is crucial for my learning style.  I like class discussion.  I like hearing what others have to say, and certainly, I like sharing my thoughts as well.  The Meetup.com group I joined never took off, so the learning process was all on me.

Third, and similarly to the second point, I had no peers nor mentors to guide me.  Keeping this process to myself, I had no ability to seek direction – and being one of 70,000 students doesn’t make me feel like I’m going to get a lot of attention if I e-mailed the course staff directly.

Fourth, I feel a definite lack of buy-in.  Though I paid for the book (12 bucks, including shipping), I can’t claim to have any sense of responsibility.  This course was not an expenditure (aside from the text and my time) to any degree that made me feel obligated to continue, nor was it part of a curriculum that I was excited for the next step.

Busting out a textbook from the graduate school days, Learning in Adulthood by Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007), one theory of adult learning labeled andragogy struck me as a useful analytical lens.  Andragogy was proposed by Malcolm Knowles in the late 1960s as a set of assumptions critical to providing a foundation for adult learning.  The six assumptions are (paraphrased from Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner, 2007):

1.  As a person matures, his/her self-concept shifts from being dependent to self-directing.
2. Adults use their experiences as a resource for learning.
3. The readiness of an adult to learn is closely related to the developmental tasks of his/her social role.
4. Adults are more problem-centered than subject-centered in learning.
5. Motivation is most potent when it’s internal, rather than external.
6. Adults need to know why they need to learn something.

Not to claim that I’m a fully matured, experience driven, internally motivated adult, (in fact, I know that not all of these things are true), but perhaps this gives some thought as to my own faltering in completing the course.  In the end, the value of the course is low, my motivation is low, and the format of the course is not help.

So, is Coursera viable?

“Viable for what?” is the question.  Undoubtedly, Coursera is a very accessible tool which could be used for a wide variety of applications, including MOOCs, for-credit courses, exams, remedial education, and probably much more.  Frankly, it was easy to get the ball rolling – which to me, indicates that the challenge is not the platform.  It’s how educators will use the platform to deliver the content, learning, and connections that they normally would try to convey through other methods.  My thought is that it would incredibly useful in smaller groups that were required to meet at least once or twice per semester/quarter, and at least once with an instructor or instructor’s designee.  I also think that it will be useful to all age groups around the world – meaning that it has a lot of potential to support global learning initiatives.

So with that, I’m going to hang my head in the shame of not finishing this course (it’s only the second one, after failing a math class in 8th grade), and then quickly move on to other things.  More maps, anyone?

-tw

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