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day 1: on being a positive MOOC statistic

June 9, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

So, last week I began a MOOC (I’m going to tentatively call it my first MOOC ever…I tried to start one back in January but didn’t really do it because everything started in January…good news is I was in it just long enough to meet a new member of Cohort 7 and establish a great Twitter friendship but that’s another story…blog post.)

So, last week I began Understanding Research Methods from Coursera. I thought that the whole research methods thing would be a great way for me not to lose all I’d recently learned in 802 and the somewhat structured environment of a class (even a class as free wielding as a MOOC) would keep me more accountable…more likely to actually live as a doctoral student in the day to day part of my identity and not just as an impressive bit of party trivia at summer soirees.

Turns out…it’s pretty awesome. Though I’m only a week into things there are a couple standout moments which I’ll just list because it’s late and I’m tired (but also a bit guilty feeling because I’ve not written for a few days. Actually no…I’ve been MOOC-writing so maybe I should just stop all this rambling and go to sleep. But I’ve made it this far so an orderly list with clever and pithy numbered points won’t kill me.)

MOOC Epiphanies From Week 1
(from a girl who admittedly was a little skeptical because even though she’s being supervised by the original MOOC-creator…she’s kind of read enough articles and sipped enough anit-MOOC kool-aid to kind of think that maybe all the cool kids are more in the ironic + skeptical camp than the believer tribe therefor she should be too…)

1. Coursera runs like a well-oiled machine.
(Seriously, from the videos to the alert emails to the sign up process…I’m impressed. My team is building out a library of videos for our students to learn from and it’s hard hard work to not have people look like weirdo robots when they’re making edu videos. Maybe it’s that I’m blinded by the British accents (ahhh….so swoon-worthy!) but I think even more they’ve got production and post production down to a science. No amateur hour here…and that in itself speaks volumes.)

2. People actually participate…and participate a lot.
(I think because I’ve ingested so many studies about the drop out rates in MOOCs and the non-persisters, and the general decay of the system I had very low expectations of people posting and actually engaging. Maybe it’s just the class I’m in or the subject matter but…these people are posting like crazy! It’s just the beginning of Week 2 and there’s like 100+ pages of intros and even more than that of posting for the first assignment which is to write a very broad, preliminary research question.)

(Forgive the obnoxious all caps but I couldn’t think of any more direct and impact-filled way to state the student body. I thought it was cool and amazing to go to school with Canadians and a Brazilian…turns out, that’s pretty much only the tip of the iceberg! I love love love interacting and learning with so many people who are from places and cultures and environments polar opposite to my own. We’ve got people from every nook of Asia, Europe, South America, Africa, and even a slight smattering from North America. Reading their intros and then their research questions is fascinating and a bit humbling. I’m trying to find out how people in graphic design online programs form and build studio communities…important sure but a little abstract. My MOOC-mates are discussing, among other things, medical communication structures in rural Vietnam, community development practices in Nepal, appropriate ways to disseminate fishing knowledge in Africa, and the mindset of the Chinese diaspora. It’s heady and it’s kind of an awesome reminder of the power of things like this to connect people.)

4. Connection-tastic with People
(For whatever reason, I’m the sort of person that loves to be connected to a large network of others and it doesn’t overwhelm me…it energizes me. I’m not super social in an extroverted, chatty way but I love meeting new people, getting to know them a bit, and then connecting them with other new people and stepping back and watching things happen. I think if I lived in a different time I’d be an ideal matchmaker! But I digress. This whole MOOC connection thing is pretty amazing because like I said in pt.3, it’s world-wide. So far I’ve scoped out my fellow MOOC-ers who are of an artistic nature and had some good text chats with them which has led to trading citations, swapping Twitter handles, and generally knowing that if “I’m ever in ________ presenting/studying/drinking  I can totally look up _________ and they’ll show me around.” So cool. I love when the world gets small because it’s overtaken by the largeness of a relational network.)

5. Connection-tastic with Ideas
(Let me confess now that I’m prone to tunnel vision. In my head I endlessly applaud iteration and process and quiet meditation while just “opening your mind to the endless potential” but in reality…I have little patience with exploration and would so so so much rather cut to the chase, find the perfect answer, and get it done…yesterday. When I finished 802 I kind of had the smug thought that though my dissertation wasn’t written…I pretty much had the topic in the bag, was rooted where I wanted to be, and with a few million words I’d be well on my way to adding D+R to my signature. And then I was commanded encouraged by my highly esteemed supervisor to not marry my first kiss and use this summer to intentionally stretch myself, ask open ended questions and ultimately be as divergent as possible. Worst. News. Ever. Especially to a total closet control freak like myself who was already contemplating what to wear under her commencement robe to color coordinate with her hood. But legit it’s been good to just generate questions and be open to ideas for this first week. I don’t think I’m going to jump ship on my topic or anything but just by thinking about what others are doing, what they’re interested in, etc. has given me so many new ways to frame my own ideas. My brain tends toward very few nodes as I tend to obsess about one thing but I’m actually learning how rich it is to add more to the mix and see what happens.)


So, last week I began a MOOC…and this week I am so happy I did. Here’s to being a positive statistic once more this week!

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