Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Loving and hating a MOOC. MITx 11.132x Design and Development of Educational Technology

By Ramón Talavera Franco

To read week 1 click here To read week 2 click here To read week 3 click here To read week 4 click here

Registering for a MOOC while working full time and being a part time Ed.D. student is challenging. Complying with its pedagogical components (videos, readings, assignments), and participating in its forums, groups, hangouts, etc., is a major task, especially, when the course is designed using the same concept of a course taught at a university level. The huge difference between them both is that a course taken at a university offers credits towards a degree while MOOCs do not offer those credits. Hence, if MOOCs pedagogical and assessment demands are similar to college courses, shouldn’t students receive recognition according to those demands?

I just finished the MITx 11.132x Design and Development of Educational Technology MOOC, and I have mixed feelings about it. The positive aspect is the six-weeks syllabus. We learned Edtech theory and learning approaches such as constructivism, constructionism, teaching for understanding, active learning, collaborative learning, and design based research through readings and videos. We also had the opportunity to communicate with peers through online video chats and conference tools such as Google hangouts, unhangouts, talkabouts, groups, and forums. I very much enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of my peers through these meetings, and I built a friendship with a person from Sri Lanka. I’m sure that she and I will continue our conversation about MOOCs soon. 

However, there was a part of the course that did not work: the system to submit our assignments. Profesor Klopfer, the designer and lecturer of this course, decided to use the forum page as the venue to post our assignments, instead of using a proper peer-review tool. As mentioned in a previous post, using forums caused apathy and as a result, very few assignments received feedback. 

Throughout the six-week course, we were asked to work on a series of assignments that would result in a product-pitch for a “well-designed and pedagogically-sound educational technology” (Kopfler, 2014). The assignments were divided in: 1) identifying the problem (describing the topic, type of learners and learning challenges), 2) 30-60 minutes elevator pitch video, 3) a description of a case scenario, 4) deciding what assessments the course would need, and 5) a final presentation for the project.

Each one of the assignments demanded time, a lot of time that is sometimes difficult to find after our daily obligations (in my case working eight hours and studying for 3 to 4 hours daily for my Ed.D.). Therefore, the minimum expectation that we had after posting an assignment was to receive feedback. In a regular course, feedback during class is instantaneous. In an online environment, the best way to receive feedback is through a peer-review tool that requires that each one of us read and review three to five peers’ assignments in order to receive our own. Using the forum to submit assignments interfered with the peer-review mechanic and let each student decide how many assignments to read and comment on. Forums are intended to be discussed voluntarily and are not mandatory. Therefore, people tend to join a discussion if the topic appeals to them.

Additionally, it is important to consider that the earlier somebody posts something, the faster the post will move down to the end of the discussion thread. Therefore, if the discussion is 15 pages in length with 15 posts each, early posts move to the last pages. If a student logs in and finds interesting posts in pages 1, 2 or 3…why bother visiting pages 13, 14 or 15?

The inconvenience of the assignment system chosen for this course was a recurring topic among the video chats that I had with some of my peers. In a MOOC it is practically impossible to receive feedback from the lecturer of the course due to the large number of students taking it. Therefore, the peer-review system offers the possibility of receiving some kind of feedback that supports our learning process. As a student who has taken nine MOOCs from different providers, I can compare their peer-review efficacy. The one selected for this course was the worst. 
Wrapping up… the information in the MITx 11.132x Design and Development of Educational Technology MOOC was very valuable and useful in fulfilling some of my educational goals. The topics discussed in the readings and videos helped me better understand the different perspectives on educational technology. Videoconferences and chats were excellent tools in which to listen to professor Kopfler’s, and many other educational technology specialists’ perspectives. The assignments were interesting and we learned many of the topics discussed during the course through them. However, the chaos caused by submitting our assignments through the discussion forum reduced the quality of the course, and the participation of the students.

There is still a question that has to be answered. I registered for this course though the edX verified certificate of achievement. I was asked to submit my photo and a photo of an official Id through the use of a webcam to verify my identity. Now that I finished the course. I’m supposed to receive said certificate at the beginning of 2015. However, I was never asked again to re-verify my identity while taking the course, and if my assignments were practically never peer-reviewed… aren’t these two concerns enough to start questioning the validity of the verified certificate?

Klopfer, E. (2014). MITx 11.132x Design and Development of Educational Technology. Retrieved from:  https://courses.edx.org/courses/MITx/11.132x/3T2014/1f41b0ba07694ef098372362de41f232/

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