Friday, 12 April 2013

Activity 14 Comparing MOOCs


This blog is for Activity 14 'Comparing MOOCs'

Background to MOOCs





DS106 is an open online course run by the University of Mary Washington. The course teaches participants about different forms of digital storytelling.

Coursera is a website led by Stanford University and works with various universities in offering some of their courses as MOOCs.


Technology
DS106 does require a lot of digital literacy from it's participants. The course organisers encourage students not only to write about their experiences and assignments in blogs but in other forms of 'digital artefact' such as animated gifs, audio and video.

The website also seems difficult to navigate and again requires some level to digital competence to move around.

Coursera does not require such a high level of digital skill. The website is easy to navigate and it has made it simple to enrol on a MOOC. Most of the MOOCs run through Coursera do not require high digital skills. At most it is the ability to write and publish a blog and occasionally to create a 'digital artefact'.


Pedagogy
DS106 seems to cater for a wide variety of learning styles. There are opportunities to read and watch the written and visual work of other students. As an Open Educational Resource DS106 is truly 'open' in that it enables all of the 4 Rs set out by David Willey in "Defining the Open in Open Content" (2007).

Coursera has a page on it's website that explores its pedagogic philosophy. This page highlights the following:

  • the efficacy of online learning
  • the importance of retrieval and testing through the assignments
  • the concept of 'Mastering Learning'
  • peer assessments
  • Active, rather than passive, learning

General Approach and Philosophy
The general approach and philosophy of DS106 is one in which students are expected to take control of their own learning and to make a contribution to the course through assignments. In this sense, DS106 is, strictly speaking, not a MOOC in that the start and end date for the course is open-ended. It seems closer to an Open Educational Resource.

In the 'About' page Coursera writes that:

We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.

Their philosophy is then the same as other MOOC providers. However, there is an aspect of 'high status' attached to this. It would be interesting to see whether courses from the more prestigious universities are more popular than those from less well-known higher educational institutions.

Although Coursera states that their courses allow students to learn at their own pace and to enable creativity to be part of the learning process. This is less true than with DS106. The MOOCs on Coursera have a firm start and finish date with set assignments that should be completed each week. This does not sound much like learning at their own pace. Digital creativity seems less important as well. Much of the assignments seems to revolve around writing and reviewing blog posts.













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