Independently of the collapse of the Coursera class earlier this week, I had been thinking about the efficacy of MOOCs. I am enrolled in my first MOOC (also a Coursera class), and I’m finding it to be somewhat less beneficial than I was anticipating. While the content is interesting, and I had hopes of engaging in meaningful discussions about the use of technology and the philosophies behind technology use, my expectations have fizzled out for a couple of reasons.
The first thing I find unattractive and very inefficient is the sheer number of participants in the class. Yes, “massive” is part of MOOC, but there is really something left wanting when each discussion forum has 2,000 posts about the same topic. How many times can the same thing be said? Is it really worth posting to the discussions if your thoughts have probably already been posted at least a dozen times? While the discussion forum allows a large number of people to discuss topics at length and break off and have smaller discussions (should you choose to do so), the whole thing reminds me a scene where rats are scrambling for the last piece of cheese in an inescapable hole in the ground. PERHAPS WRITING YOUR THOUGHTS ON TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM IN ALL CAPS WILL MAKE IT STAND OUT ENOUGH FOR PEOPLE TO READ AND COMMENT. Then again, it’s 1,500 posts in, so it will probably never be looked at, let alone commented on and engaged with.
There may be something to gain from simply observing the discussions that other people have on the forum, but the more I tried to interact with the subject and participants, the more irritated I became.
With regard to the failed Coursera class, I came across this interesting blog post by Debbie Morrison that addresses some other issues that face the MOOC community. The analysis is very thorough and thought-out, and there are some great resources for further reading on the topic of MOOCs and online education.