“If you don’t watch it people will force you one way or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite.”
― Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
This is a story about failure. It’s a story about learning and lofty goals; but, still, it’s a story about failure. And, the failure is all mine.
In September, I wrote a post, Lifelong Learning: MOOC’s vs Liberal Arts Colleges, and stated my intention to experiment by enrolling in both MOOC’s and a real course. Right there, did you catch that? I said, real course, and that’s an issue with MOOC’s. Put another way, it’s a thought process that led to my failure.
I failed, because I did not complete any of the courses. I failed spectacularly, because I watched a few lessons and didn’t stick with the program. Why didn’t I stick with the classes? Well, what was the incentive? I received no grade. There was no relationship with the instructor. I did not feel like I was part of a class. Once I fell behind there was no intervention or attention from the instructor. Instead, when I received emails from the instructor it felt more like getting spammed. We started on this path together and they’ve no idea how far I’ve wandered. But, should they care? I was one of the 120,000 people they can point to as having enrolled.
Where I succeeded was in the real class, Foundations of Computer Science, which I took at Hendrix College. I succeeded, because there was a commitment. There were scheduled times for class and lab. I would receive a grade and I wanted a good grade. I succeeded, because the professor was available for help, provided thoughtful feedback, and was invested in his students.
While there is so much talk about MOOC’s from people involved in higher education, it seems like there is an interminable silence from the greatest demographic: students. What do college students want? They don’t want to go in debt in order to get a degree, but do they want to take online classes with thousands of students?
MOOC’s have the potential to reshape education. Read Clay Shirky’s post, Napster, Udacity, and the Academy, for a well-reasoned perspective. But who is doing the reshaping and who really wants it? Are universities reacting to one another or are they strategically shifting to a new model?
For me, MOOC’s were a failure. Partly, I over scheduled and was not invested. I plan to take another class and put more effort in it next semester, but my failure raises some important issues. It also helps me identify what I need to do in order to succeed in a MOOC. I need to treat it like a real class. I need to schedule specific times to watch the videos. I need to seek out a community of support. There are a lot of “I’s” in that sentence and it reflects the nature of a MOOC. The onus is on the student. Will college students respond positively or negatively?