October 6, 2014
Evidently you don't need to be a rocket scientist to create a positive MOOC (massive open online course) experience, if the fallout from the recent failed Coursera offering on Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application is anything to go by.
You don't even need to be a world-renowned expert in online learning and instructional design. Ask Fatimah Wirth, the Instructional Designer for Georgia Tech Professional Education and an instructor for one of the NASA Electronic Professional Development Network (ePDN) courses.
Well, I wouldn't have guessed this. Normally I like unique views on out of date strategies as English teaching news isn't like working on something brand new day after day. Of course it's not at all like manufacturing car engines the whole day then again you can always find something to change slightly. Even if you tend not to accept the beauty of life hides in the changes. Let us see what lengths we could go.
No, if the Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application MOOC proves anything, it is that you need to be something much more (or much less?) than that.
Apparently (and this will be old hat to the 41,000+ who joined the MOOC) the planned six-week course crashed out after the first week, and there were quite diabolical problems right from the first day.
For a very detailed (and in my opinion, insightful) account of how it all went pear-shaped, I recommend reading Chewing Thistles' 24 Hours - A long time in online learning. There is also this account from the Washington Post: How online class about online learning failed miserably.
Perhaps knowing something about Artificial Intelligence is a better predictor of one's capability to really plan and deliver effective massive open online courses, as this article demonstrates.
Personally, I wouldn't be trusting anyone to teach me about online learning if their MO is reading aloud word-for-word over the bullet points of a PowerPoint (including material about the dangers of using PowerPoint...), never mind expecting 41,000 people to efficiently access a Google Doc that only allows in 50 users at a time.
And the fact a course about online learning, planning and application failed quite spectacularly on all three fronts... well, beyond the easy irony and as much as I sympathize with Ms. Wirth, there's more than one lesson to be learned in all of this.
Despite the time wasted and copious frustrations, at least those 41,000 didn't have to pay for the failed course. I had a somewhat similar experience with an online MA unit in ICT for Education, and I had to pay through the teeth for it.