It’s going to be a busy day online today as I’ve got several courses to catch up on and a quiz or two to attempt. MOOCs are beginning to play an increasingly important part in my week. I’m currently working on four and surprise, surprise they take working on. To pass those tests it is necessary to work, to pay attention, to think and to research.
This week the Ancient Greeks started on Coursera.org. I do like Coursera’s learning environment even if it’s not ideal. In the Ancient Greek course each video has a couple of questions to answer at the end. It’s not clear if the answers count but they’re engaging. I did the test – 19/20 and, of course, I dispute the one I’ve got wrong. In fact I haven’t got a clue which is the right answer. Did Homer’s work NOT reference the dark-ages, greek myths, pre-hellenic culture or the Mycenaeans? Dunno!
I’m surprised how much the content potentially conflicts with my own beliefs about the ancient greeks especially the so called Dark Ages. I suppose, though, that it’s only with greater familiarity with the subject that the issues appear.
As with the other courses the real action is happening in the forums which are already very busy. They’re a distraction but once one has made a comment or even better initiated a discussion thread they quickly become compelling. This course is a short one and ends with Socrates and at about the same time as the Know Thyself course which is far more challenging.
Mitch Green‘s Know Thyself is now in its third week having started with Delphi – Know Thyself – gone onto Socrates – the unexamined life – and proceeded to Rene Descarte – Cogito…. Week three introduces Gilbert Ryle and his concept of mind. This course is hard work since we’re dealing with complex thinkers and difficult concepts. The quizzes are far from simple too and the student body – 70,000 + are highly engaged in trying to challenge the ban on discussing the answers if not the legitimacy of the questions. Considering the student body is largely made up of non-native English speakers they’re doing very well with subtle linguistic arguments but I suspect they will start dropping out soon as the material is heavy going. Mitch is a lovely speaker though and many may stay the course just to enjoy him even if they don’t take the tests.
Both of these courses have active FaceBook groups but the real action is taking place in the discussion threads. Coursera’s software for managing discussions will no doubt improve but it’s doing very well handling the volume. EdX by contrast has a problem handling discussions and will lose students because of it.
I’m also doing a Harvard course on the Greek Hero on edX. The platform and format isn’t as good as Coursera’s and I get the feeling it’s all just a bit too experimental. Before the course material was ready there was a lot of activity on the bulletin boards within the Briseis cohort which seems to have overloaded the server in some way. Many people were unceremoniously moved into different groups – I went from Briseis to Nestor. Even edX admit it was a ‘big mistake’ and it seems to have confused and subdued the students. Activity in the forums is poor since but it may pick up. The course material is all a bit disorganised too. Several readings – too much reading really – and videos to watch and there’ll be a test. It just doesn’t feel quite right but I’m not sure why so I’ll see how it goes and try a bit harder to engage with it. I find myself not checking in to edX as frequently as Coursera and that’s not only interface preferences. I don’t think edX haven’t got it right yet and I get the impression that Harvard isn’t far ahead of the troups.
It’s all early days and time is going to be the tester. I’d love to get some stats from the courses and will ask for it in the forums. I notice on FB that people are already dropping out. It’s very easy to join too many MOOCs and then not find enough time to do the work.
I’m largely house bound right now and these courses are helping me fight the loneliness resulting from not having anywhere to go most days of the week. Tomorrow (Wednesday) I’m off out to my bricks and mortar university – Birkbeck – and it’ll be interesting to see how many people outside of class I interact with while there. There’s a fair chance that I’m actually in touch with more people online than I am at college.
There’s quite a lot of reading to do on the OU course Open Education so I’ll leave this round up here and get back to work.
p.s. WordPress recommended the links and being lazy I applied them all. Got no idea where they might lead so let the linker beware 😉