Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My First MOOC: A New Year's Resolution

I am not one to jump on the bandwagon for any type of fad that gets a lot of media attention.  My first iPhone was the 5, just out of stubbornness.  But in my role as an instructional designer, I felt it was due time for me to have an opinion of MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, based on first-hand experience.  (For those of you new to the concept of MOOCs, see the info-graphic below for an overview of the concept).

Click above to view the complete image.

After making the resolution to participate in a MOOC this January, I found myself unsure of how to get started finding one.  After a bit of searching, I decided to select a course from the options provided by either edX or Coursera.  Both providers have websites that host online courses created by faculty across the globe, though edX is a non-profit partnership and Coursera is a for-profit education company.  Edx and Coursera courses are both developed by a range of faculty from ivy league, private, and public institutions.  As of January, EdX had posted 125 courses and Coursera had posted about 550.  I was secretly relieved to discover that neither provider offered courses directly relevant to my profession, so I was free to take a course just for fun.

The amount of information listed about the courses varied greatly.  Some courses included a rigorous syllabus of readings, assignments, discussion boards, and tests.  Other courses posted little detail up front, and may mostly utilize lecture videos and reading.  I was pleased to see some courses provided reading material for free, while others listed traditional text books to purchase.  Having already earned three degrees, I found myself disinclined toward courses that had more rigorous work expectations and expensive textbooks.  I love to learn just for the pleasure of it, but I think I need external motivators (i.e. cost or credit) if I am going to take exams.

I decided to enroll in a Coursera course, Moralities of Everyday Life, created by a Yale psychology professor I had previously seen in TedTalks videos.  The enrollment process was simple and required just my name and email information.  I was given the option to purchase the “verified certificate” track for $50.  This service, called Signature Track, uses typing patterns with facial recognition to confirm a student's identity.   Since it’s my first experience with a MOOC, I am going with the free option.  Class begins January 20th  (apparently MOOCs don’t honor federal holidays) and lasts nine weeks.  I am excited to personally experience how a MOOC compares to a traditional online course.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you too are inspired by the new year and want to learn something new, I invite you to try the MOOC experience along with me and share your thoughts.  Here are the sites I explored:

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