I am not too sure of the difference between asking: What makes an effective MOOC learner? and What makes an effective learner? I will think about that later. For now I will answer as someone who just *successfully* completed a MOOC course. (This post could get long- get yourself a drink and a comfortable seat).
Speaking as a MOOC addict, let me confess that my thirst for knowledge is quite insatiable. So after a few MOOC binges I decided to go cold turkey. And then I found an excuse. My advanced students needed a challenge so I introduced them to Dr Chuck's Python course. I could have sent them to codacademy.com which I often use in my face to face classroom, but I preferred to introduce them to one of the most popular MOOC courses and instructors so they could not only learn Python but also learn something about interactive media, browser based applications, and globalisation. I didn't specify these learning goals. I just said: "Google Coursera and Python and enrol, ask me if you want help" (This is a great lesson plan).
After two weeks I saw them
struggling. It took me a year to find their limit, so I was happy to
see we had reached a milestone and decided to intervene. I started to do
the exercises with them and realised I didn't know much about Python so
maybe I should just do a little bit of the MOOC to help them out. (Just
one or two drinks, nothing more. )
So weeks went by and I realised that my previous understanding of VB and asp.net made Python quite easy to learn. I blitzed the quizzes and my motivation changed. I wanted to do this MOOC for multiple reasons (not in any order):
- to provide support to my students learn programming basics
learn from Dr Chuck who I saw at MoodleMoot AU in Melbourne and
recognised as someone I have a lot to learn from and will probably never
meet in person
- to check out LMS layouts (as a Moodle admin)
- because I had dinner with someone years ago who tried to convince me that Equella was faster than Sharepoint because it was written in Python
- I like finishing what I start
- It felt good to get 9/10 in quizzes and even better to be able to try again and get 10/10 woohoo!
- I like using my brain and look for ways to avoid spending my time on shopping, cooking and cleaning
So MY criteria for being successful was:
- do as minimum as necessary to guide my learners
- soak up a little of Dr Chuck and not get hooked
- See if the Coursera interface, assessment strategies and forums have changed in 2 years
- remember to feed my children and NOT waste my time playing on the Internet with silly programming challenges
(Please note that these needs and motivations changed daily)
When I hit a tricky programming challenge in Week7 I had to decide if I would 'cheat'. To meet my success criteria I should just look in the Coursera forums or just google it - and yes someone has posted the answers. But I chose a more generic site from stack overflow that gave me a clue rather than the answer. Why?? As I am currently writing a book about Motivation I analysed my every thought against my framework, Usually I am a highly motivated and capable learner and this situation took me by surprise because my goal was not to complete. I had higher goals and loyalty as a mother which as an observer you may see as 'cheating'.
Would Dr Chuck
think I was cheating if I Googled "Python dictionary" and read up on it a
bit. I doubt it. Other teachers would but my first programming teacher,
Greg, congratulated us for using copy and pasting as 'smart' rather
than cheating. He said it was more accurate and efficient, if not
strictly obedient. Dr Chuck had warned me that the first few weeks would
be easy and that I would get stuck later if I didn't pay attention to
I achieved most of my aims within the first few weeks of the course, The students dropped off and I was left to ponder if I should continue. In the analysis of the data are they seen as failures? We spent a few hours huddled around a computer screen trying to do a simple pay* hours equation together. Was that a waste of every bodies time because they didn't complete? In their minds the answer is no ( and that is all that really counts here) . They achieved a few things:
know about MOOCs now and are really , I mean really, excited that
geographically and economically they are not as disadvantaged as they
thought they were
- They enjoyed it so much they decided to put it on hold until after this course so they can really enjoy it and not just rush through it. How would you capture that in Big Data?
- They realised that you don't have to have special equipment , software or access to mentors to keep learning through your life
So now was the point for me to stop. I was successful and had achieved all of my goals. Hmmppfff. I forgot how much I liked being challenged. How much I need an excuse to procrastinate on the mundane jobs I have to do in my life. I was asked to tick a box that the answers were my own. That did have an effect on my 'ethics'. I was asked to type a paragraph and take a photo on my webcam.. I was surprised that I had a unique typing pattern! (I wondered if I have a "The kids are finally asleep and I am pretty tired pattern' and a "Kids are awake and I just had three interruptions while I typed one sentence pattern?") If I watched the 'Worked answer video from the teacher it felt like cheating. I realide ai had an ethical / status heirarchy:
- ask google for a clue
- ask another student for a clue
- ask the teacher (big shame .. even if watching a video and he doesn't know it)
I tried to convince myself of other reasons I should continue ....and
in the end I realised that i like it.I didn't 'cheat'. Some people
shoot Zombies faster and better to relax and I like to challenge my
brain. Maybe it is the same thing? I have no intention of becoming a
Python programmer. Professionally it helps me to communicate to with
programmers, but I really have no aspirations of continuing to become a
master programmer. Does that make me a failure? No. But it did keep me
up until 1 am to submit an assessment by the deadline. I am not an 'effective learner' in the career path to become a programmer. Because I don't want to be - not because I can't.
More importantly, Dr Chuck and Dr Curt Bonk who summarised in a virtual graduation ceremony (complete with Harry Potter stick which made me 'educated' and an emotive sound track of 'Pomp and Ceremony" ) that to be successful we need 'PC':
- purpose, passion perserverance, playfulness
- choice, committment, connections, completions,
I recently went through some online training to upgrade my qualifications. It created alot of anxiety and frustration. All through the MOOC process I didn't have these feelings. The instant feedback versus delayed feedback seems to be the biggest difference for me. I did somehow miss week 8 quiz and was informed that I can catch up in the final week in a 'few' missed activities. I could also do some optional essays for credit points to make up for lost points on quizzes. It would have been very easy for me to quit at any point and yet I didn't. I found these simple settings highly motivational and will be implementing them in my course design. In hindsight I would say that MY measure of success is ..did this experience make me a better teacher? - Yes.
In summary - how can you judge an 'effective' (MOOC) learner when you don't know why they are there, and they don't even know always know why they are there?