As mentioned in a previous post, I have enrolled in several MOOCs offered through the Coursera website. At present the only one that has already begun is Writing II – Rhetorical Composing (from Ohio State University). We are in our second week. This is my first experience learning in a MOOC environment (with the exception of a false start with the Introduction to Philosophy course). My impression so far? In one word…gratitude!
I can only imagine how daunting it must be for Professors and assistants to be faced with several thousands of students at any given time for any given course. The text/pdf materials offered through the Rhetorical Composing course, along with the many instructional videos and links to other online resources, and finally the Google Hangout sessions, G+ community and discussion forum all join together to offer a learning experience that, while not the same as in a traditional classroom, has already in these two short weeks provided me with a wealth of practical and informative instruction to improve my rhetoric. And we have only just begun! I want to personally thank Professors Susan Delagrange, Scott Lloyd DeWitt, Kay Halasek, Ben McCorkle and Cynthia Selfe–along with all of the assistants and other students–for making this a rewarding experience. I look forward to the rest of the course.
I realize that MOOCs have been the center of quite a bit of controversy. Just plug the keyword “MOOC” into your preferred search engine and you will find a vast array of opinions on the subject, ranging everywhere from unadulterated praise to outright disdain. Personally I fall somewhere in the middle of these two. Here is my take…
In my opinion MOOCs should never completely replace a traditional and/or blended classroom experience where the student-to-teacher ratio is such that students can actually have direct access to the professors. That said, what I really like about MOOCs is that they offer an ongoing education experience for those of us who are, for one reason or another, not able to attend traditional university. I am currently in that position myself, and having access to MOOCs allows me to continue my education guided by instructors where I would otherwise not be able to do so. For me, the issue is the prohibitive costs of a higher education and the crushing burden of student loan debt. Most MOOCs are free. Previous to discovering MOOCs (and in addition to reading scholarly works) I would find online lectures put out by several universities on topics of interest to me. The advantage to a MOOC over these lectures is that in the MOOC environment there is at least some interaction with the instructors, actual assignments to work through (with deadlines!) and peer support in the discussion forum. It is much more engaging and interactive than simply watching a video lecture, though I have watched some awesome and informative video lectures through sites like Keen Talks, Academic Earth and through various universities that offer lectures through the OpenCourseWare platform (e.g. MIT, University of Oxford, Yale and others).
Both MOOCs and the controversy surrounding them are not likely to go away anytime soon. It will be interesting to follow the debate. In the meantime, myself and thousands (perhaps millions? ) of other students are provided an opportunity to further our knowledge and skills.
Cheers to all of those who work behind the scenes (as well as in front) to make this happen. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.