Wednesday, 28 August 2013

6 Misconceptions about MOOCs that could apply to all online learning – if we are not ‘quality aware’

·         That MOOC quality is no longer a problem.
The risk here is that quality moves into the background. Schemes based upon quality cultures throughout the organisation justify the quality approach to all learning and imply that there is nothing different about MOOCs. 
There is not yet an established standard of quality in MOOCs, we should be wary of predicting their future.  The reliance upon peer interaction will result in variable quality of MOOC experience.

·         That MOOC learners like to undertake course designs that are incomplete, with the excuse that they are a work in progress, in the spirit of ‘try this out’.
The current MOOC learner profile is largely postgraduate, which may reflect in the JISC/ CETIS report (http://publications.cetis.ac.uk/2013/667 ) which lists ‘doing it for fun’ under learner motivation. On the other hand it also lists ‘to experience and explore online learning’ as a motivator.  It is likely that learners, new to online or MOOCs, will be put off once MOOCs go out into the ‘real world’ where most learners want to take a course that is well designed, guides learning and brings successful results.

·         That all MOOCs are courses.
This may develop from a misunderstanding of terminology.
In Canada and the USA, a "course" is a unit of teaching that typically lasts one academic term; whereas in the UK, "course" refers a complete programme (e.g. a degree).  MOOCs are probably better seen as part of a course or a stand-alone unit of learning.  They seem best suited to be a form of blended learning or a form of guided learning at present.

·         That MOOCs will replace HE
When you consider that so far the only MOOCs with certificates (of completion or credit points) are:
a) funded by a university
b) accredited by a university
c) use university produced lectures
this does seem a bit unlikely.
To be honest, they do seem more likely to provide CPD content, especially if those using them are willing to pay a small fee for their CPD certificate and may prove major competition in this market.

·         That MOOCs are free.
Not really, not if you want proof of what you have done.  Already we are seeing charges for certification and credits scores, albeit at quite low rates ($50 to $100).  But there again, how many MOOCs make a degree? Or will we see adverts on our MOOC page?

·         That MOOCs are easy.
With thousands of learners, peer support, peer marking, in fact peer everything, except enrolment and lectures MOOCs will be anything but easy.  Plagiarism, variable marking standards and cliques will work against an easy environment.  Bring your own group to work with (which may limit the new knowledge gained) or take a chance on who you learn with (which may mean an early break-up of the group).  Introverts beware!


Footnote: Except for the last point, you could replace ‘MOOC’ with ‘Online Learning’.  Although there are similarities between class-based learning, MOOCs and Online Learning, all three differ in many respects and need quality assurance in their own right.  For the time being MOOC funders appear to want materials online but how long will it be before they want materials online that provide quality learning experiences, just as is the case (or should be) with Online Learning?


Epprobate and TOLDC┬║ are working together to raise awareness of quality in online learning courseware.  MOOCs are courseware in that they may form part of a course or provide stand-alone knowledge as a short course.  Find out more at epprobate: http://epprobate.com/

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