Thursday, October 23, 2014

Everything old is new again… First week of 11.132x Design and Development of Educational Technology MOOC.

Ramón Talavera Franco
To read week 2 click here.      To read week 3 click here      To read week 4 click here      To read week 5 & 6 click here

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my experience as a student registered in11.132x Design and Development of Educational Technology MOOC. Designed and taught by Professor Eric Klopfer from MIT, this MOOC discusses the relationship between educational theory and technology. The reason that I’m taking this course is due to my interest in Ed Tech, and my ongoing analysis on MOOCs instructional design and pedagogical approaches. Also, because I’m a doctor of education student at Northeastern University and my doctoral program does not offer a course related to this subject. Hence, this MOOC is an excellent opportunity to explore this topic.
This is the first course that I take through edX. So far I’ve taken different MOOCs from other providers such as Coursera, Iversity, Udacity, and Canvas, and I was intrigued about the instructional design and pedagogy of these MOOCs.

The first difference in relation to other MOOCs is that the course initiated from week 0, and not from Week 1 as I was accustomed to. Week 0 was intended to get familiar with the MOOC environment, as well as with the Learning Management System (LMS). Week 0 gave us the opportunity to explore how to submit assignments, and how to create/participate in group s and forums. Also it helped us to meet professor Klopfer through a video lecture and gave us an idea of how these video lectures will work along the course. It was an exploratory week that gave us the tools to start the course with less technological anxiety.

During week 1, we learned about the history of Ed Tech, constructivism and constructionism. Through instructional approaches such as video lectures, video clips, readings, and forums we explored such theories. Since we don’t have face-to-face sessions with professor Klopfer, forums result excellent channels to discuss our understanding of such theories. Also, they are safe environments to post questions to clarify doubts among us.

During this week we had two assignments intended to apply the two theories analyzed during this week: 1) to construct a tower out of nearby objects, and 2) to do some critical thinking about early and current technology applied to education. We also had the opportunity to explore Logo and Scratch, two different programming software that helped us understand constructivism, and the evolution of programming teaching and learning.

Finally, we had our first “Ask me anything” (AMA) through Reddit. Reddit is an online text discussion board to which professor Klopfer invited us to participate by posting questions. I didn’t know about this online system so it was interesting to learn its functionality and learn from the questions discussed during the session.

I will talk in detail about all MOOCs features, forums and assignments in future posts. Now, I would only like to share some considerations about those features that presented difficulty during the first week:

Positive: The viewer can read an interactive transcript that can be accessed by clicking the Closed Captions (cc) tab in the lower right corner of the video player. The videos also can be downloaded to our computer for further reference.

Negative: A link or section to take you directly to all the videos of each lesson is missing in the MOOC architecture. The viewer has to go to each sub-topic of the course, find out if it has videos embedded, and explore them. Unfortunately the titles of the sub-topics do not have an icon that inform if there is a video embedded or not; hence, if we want to watch a video again, we need to find the subtopics where they are located.

EdTechX: This is the own edX forum site where students can engage in forums and groups.
Positive: As all forums sites, it is a great place to meet with people that share your same interests, create groups with people that lives in your area, and exchange notes.

Negative: It is an external site with its own design that confuses the viewers. The site’s design has nothing in common with the courses’ site so it is distracting. It has kind of the Facebook design. Maybe the designers wanted to mimic Facebook to give the impression of being a social networking website, but… what is the need to make it different from the course’s site design? It is confusing.

Peer ReviewAssignments:
Posting the first peer review assignment was confusing. Assignments are a stressful activity in all courses so students need an easy and clear way to submit them. To turn in our initial assignment, we first needed to decide if we wanted to write a paper, make a power point or prezi presentation, or a video. Next, we had to post our work online somewhere else (dropbox, google drive, blog, etc). Then we had to copy the link, and past it in the submission form. Finally we had to decide if we wanted to share it with all our peers thorough the discussion forum. If we decided to share it, we had to find first the discussion forum, and then submit it there.

The main problem was to be sure that the link that we shared was accessible for everybody. After I submitted my assignment, I received other student’s work for peer review, and guess what… I could not review the first paper that I received because the student didn’t give access to it.

I can imagine the frustration that she or he is going to experiment when she/he finds out that didn’t give us access; therefore, we could not review her/his work. Additionally, the system does not give us the option to skip an assignment that we cannot open, or to send a note to the student letting him/her know the problem. Since I had to review three assignments, and the assignment I’m referring to was the first one, I had to grade it low (and left a note to the student letting him/her know about the situation) in order for me to be able to continue grading other assignments. I hope edX team can find a solution for this kind of inconveniences that are going to affect more than one student.

Well… this was supposed to be a short post so I better stop here and continue next time. Yet, I hope somebody at edX can read this post and try to help students who were affected by the instructions of this first assignment.

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