The truth about MOOCs is, you can’t know for certain, in advance, how good of a learning experience it’s going to be… Until you’re in it. People at work tell me all the time about bad MOOCs they’ve registered for. Of course there are bad MOOCs. Many of them. It takes judgment and patience and trial and error to find good ones. But you still can’t know in advance what you’re gonna get…(Keith Hamon was just saying this on g+ so i finally got around to writing this post).
It’s like other learning/teaching experiences. And research, sometimes (err if u knew with certainty where u were gonna go it was probably not a good research project….just saying…)
Also like books, or TV shows or documentaries. Or parties!
But you know the box of chocolates analogy, it’s not really a good one – you do have some idea what you might get; you just don’t know for sure until you’re in it (coz u know, boxes of chocolate have brands and descriptions on the outside, with allergy warnings, too!).
So there are indicators. Just like when you buy or borrow a book, you do so based on several factors, other than the cover 🙂 e.g. Author (in learning, teacher/facilitator), reviews (popular or professional), synopsis on back (in learning, course description or syllabus), genre (in learning, topic/discipline) and there are other factors that may encourage you to read a book or sign up for a course such as having a book club or friends doing the same thing, such as timing (e.g. You read a book about grief as you or a loved one is going through grief; you take a course in child nutrition because you have a picky eater for a child); length, based on other commitments in your life… You know that even the best author can write books that flop (i used to wonder about this, but i know i have had my low moments as an academic writer, so i sort of get it). You know that, weirdly, some really awful books get good reviews and become popular (FSOG comes to mind!)
And then you begin the book/course and partway through, you get to judge the quality, and the usefulness to you, and whether a community of others doing the same thing inspire you to keep going, and whether other life commitments will take you away from it. I used to be the kind of person who finished a book/MOOC no matter what. Then i realized life is TOO SHORT!
So, for me, it’s like this.
I’ll sign up for a MOOC if it has one of the following:
1. Topic is interesting to me. I used to sign up for things that interest me beyond my field altogether but found i couldn’t commit to those, so if i am interested in them i’ll just read some articles online or get a couple resources from the MOOC but not seriously finish it;
2. The facilitators are interesting to me. People I know have something good to offer because i like their ideas or areas of expertise or i actually like them. In the cMOOC world, I know lots of those ppl so the choice isn’t difficult. Dave Cormier, Hybridped, the ccourses ppl like Howard, Alan, Mia (and later Mimi, Gardner, etc) – easy choices for me.
3. The community – like i said many times before, i’ll follow certain people almost anywhere because whatever the experience, they’ll make it fun. They know who they are, I’ve said it many times. Happy birthday, btw, Terry! I’ve signed up for a MOOC once because i peer-reviewed a paper on the first run and got interested in the second run.
Those are reasons I sign up. Then how deeply i engage depends most strongly on how #3 turns out. There are awesome MOOCs in terms of content or design and I learn from them. But i don’t fully engage unless there is a community on twitter or the blogosphere or facebook or something… My rhizo14 experience spoiled me in the sense that i don’t want faceless random connections. I want deep connections with people i will get to know well online, so a sub-group of all who engage in a MOOC. This means in some MOOCs i will meet new people but in others i may be too busy and just stick to those i know. It all depends.
So when someone looks at me weird for saying i sign up for a lot of MOOCs? For xMOOCs, i only dip in to get some content and rarely have time to engage unless it’s got a social media component
For cMOOCs i usually engage fully only in 1-2 at a time. A good one is damn time consuming. The #fedwikihappening (not a MOOC in any way, really, coz how massive or open is 20-30 people?) was so BRAIN-consuming i could barely think of anything else while in it; but u know, 2 weeks, awesome ppl, steep learning curve, beautiful!) – but there are also synergies one can find across MOOCs. E.g. Oclmooc with ccourses. I was “in” ccourses as participant and later as facilitator, but also looked in on oclmooc with some common participants and topics and used the hashtag occasionally.
A MOOC can interest me tangentially. Like dalmooc interested me in its dual-pathway design, and i was interested in what George Siemens and Matt Croslin had to say, but then couldn’t actually do the actual stuff coz my home laptop was busted.
A MOOC can give me good teaching ideas but i would lurk in it otherwise. Or it can introduce me to interesting ppl but i end up talking to them about different things. Or i can engage with another community e.g. Edcontexts or rhizo14 while taking another MOOC if i find it not socially engaging enough.
ALSO, the less i can do on iPad on 3G for a MOOC, the less i can engage in it!
And uh that’s the thing. I work full time and have a 3-year old. I also write a heck of a lot and do research and teach. I have very little time, and less so when my kid’s sleep is messed up like it’s been over the holidays (apologies to everyone whom i owe some writing and have been slacking). I MOOC and blog mostly while commuting to/from work and late night after she sleeps and early morning while getting ready for work. That’s why mobility is essential for me.
I MOOC/blog/tweet as edutainment. I don’t watch TV (ok, maybe Jon Stewart, a little) or read newspapers (i really don’t want to know what’s happening in Egypt; i am in denial). So my spare time is spent either online or reading stuff on kindle or in some other electronic format.