Friday, October 31, 2014

Does grade matter? Second week of MITx: 11.132x Design and Development of Educational Technology MOOC

Ramón Talavera-Franco

To read week 1 click here      To read week 3 click here      To read week 4 click here      To read week 5 and 6 click here

This week I’ve been kind of disappointed after submitting my assignment to11.132x Design and Development of Educational Technology MOOC because I haven’t received any comment on it. Are assignments important in MOOCs or not?

All of us who have taken MOOCs know the different facts that are involved in submitting an assignment: time invested, research, complying with due dates, and even managing stress. What happens when our assignments are not peer reviewed, or graded?
Week’s 2 assignment consisted in writing the first draft of a pitch which describes a sound educational technology product. The instructions were to upload our pitch to the forum website and not to the peer review tool. The idea was to generate some discussion among our peers who share the same interest. Each one of us was supposed to read three other student’s pitches and comment and vote on them. However, not everybody received comments or votes. Why?

One of the reasons is because those who posted their assignments first caught the attention of the readers, and if the readers found interesting one of those assignments, immediately voted and commented on them. Hence, students didn’t feel the need to read other assignments. Thus, those assignments that were submitted later are likely not to receive any vote or comment. By October 29, 2014 (when I’m writing this post) there are 341 assignments posted and distributed in 23 forum pages. While one of the assignments already received 27 votes and comments, there are dozen that have received cero (mine included). Those assignments are lost in one of those 23 pages that not everybody are willing to visit.

Last week I mentioned that some of my peers had problems to upload the first assignment to the peer review tool. The main problem was that we had to upload the assignment to a file hosting service (Dropbox, Google Drive, Blogger, etc.) and copy/paste the link of the document to the peer review tool. Unfortunately, some of those links were not possible to open; hence, my peers didn’t receive any feedback, or received a low grade. The frustration of this situation can be shown in the following emails sent to the MOOC help center by two of my peers (I omit the names for privacy reasons):

“Hi XXXXX, I don't know why the link for my first assignment couldn't be opened by my peers who were meant to assess it. So I'm pasting below the link, to ask you to help me deleting my submission entirely to start over and submit the correct link.”

“HI (XXXX) and (XXXX) - I need some help! I've just posted my assignment link for Week 1 (copied from Dropbox) but somehow it pasted as if from my computer. I did made it public…”

The administrators of the course kindly sent a message to all of those who were affected with the same problem, and suggested to resubmit their assignments. However, the following statement was issued:

“For anyone who is having other issues using the peer review tool, I'm afraid there isn't much we can do on our end about bugs in edx. Feel free to submit a ticket to edx using the help tab on the left of the courseware. And remember that we do not emphasize grades in this course, so as long as you're getting useful feedback on your work here in the forums, you don't have to stress about bugs affecting your work in the course.”

There are three topics to analyze in this response:

· Bugs in edx could continue preventing us from submitting our assignments in a timely manner.

· Grades don’t matter (as points don’t matter in Whose line is it anyway?)

· Feedback is important.

Bugs will continue giving us headaches so we just have to follow the administrators’ advice. On the other hand, if grades don’t matter… how those who paid for the verified certificate (myself included) are going to be graded in order to receive such certificate?... If feedback is important… what happens when you don’t receive any feedback? And if your assignments are not graded and they don’t receive any feedback… are assignments important in MOOCs or not? Then, what is the accountability of the students who take this course?

By the way... the name of my pitch is:  Effectively communicating with my K-12 Latino students MOOC in case you want to take a look at it.

Your opinion is welcome in the comments link of this post.

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