Posts Tagged 'Learning'

MOOC Update

blog 3Well, here we are, one month on from my original MOOC post (which you can read here) and I know you’re all just DYING to hear how I’m getting on! It’s been a mixed bag so far, for a variety of reasons, so here’s a quick update to let you know where I’m currently at:

At present I am signed up for three MOOCs (I added a third on becoming a more confident trainer, also from Open 2 Study, which seemed manageable at the time…) and have commenced work on all of them.

One of my biggest challenge at present is time. Time is something I just don’t seem to have enough of when it comes to MOOCs! Alongside my MOOCs I am also doing another Level 4 qualification which, because it has a deadline and I’m paying for it, takes precedent every time. I’m also working funny hours and have had a slew of other commitments to attend to. So, honestly, it’s been harder than I thought to keep up with them all. Three was definitely too many! I’m not concerned about the Microeconomics one – it’s nice and flexible so I can pick it up at my leisure, but I already missed the week 2 assessment deadline on the other two. I honestly don’t get the deadlines – they are pesky and completely pointless! The Open 2 Study two are both reasonably low maintenance – though they’re supposed to be four hours a week they’re probably nearer two if you have half a brain. But the time constraints are really irritating as a week is no time at all if you’re busy. And, though it’s not much time, it’s not helped by the fact that they are…

Boring! Oh. My. God. The Open 2 Study ones are so incredibly boring that I literally dread watching them. Where Saylor really go for a variety of teaching styles and materials, Open 2 Study go for nothing but video with some optional reading (why not make it mandatory?) Saylor are also very factual and to the point with their information; they explain things thoroughly and then back up the information with anecdotes and real world examples. Open 2 Study on the other hand just have someone talking at you. There’s some use of anecdotes on the Trainer course, but pretty much just lists of information on the Project Management one. And everything is delivered very slowly and precisely and in an incredibly dull manner. I take nothing away from the content (which is solid in all cases), but the structure is completely disengaging to me personally.

I have a multi-modal learning style (you can find out what yours is here) with a slight preference for reading/writing and kinaesthetics. It’s no surprise really – I’m a person who loves variety in all areas of their life so why should learning be different? It’s disappointing though that the organisations providing some of these courses are not utilising a wider range of teaching styles – particularly considering Open 2 Study is backed by Open Universities Australia (like the OU in the UK). Though I’m not a qualified teacher/trainer (something I’m working at changing), I regularly deliver courses myself and even I, with my fairly basic and self-taught knowledge, understand that you have to use variety in teaching methods if you want to engage your students.

So how am I feeling about it all a month on? A little disillusioned if I’m honest. I had heard prior to starting that they are a mixed bag, and that’s to be expected when you consider the different levels they’re working at, the different audiences they’re targeting, and the huge range of topics they are covering, but I still feel a little let down. If you’re going to do something then you ought to do it properly or not at all in my opinion. My feelings for the two providers are incredibly polarised – I am actively missing my Microeconomics course and can’t wait to get back to it once my paid course is complete, but I honestly doubt whether I’m going to be able to sit through another six-plus hours a piece of the Open 2 Study ones. I suspect I will become a drop-out statistic of the Trainer course but will just about hang on in there with Project Management. Doing so, however, will not be pleasant.

As it stands with Microeconomics, I have a bigger and more complex goal at present. Presuming I can see the course through to completion, my aim is to go on to complete the complementary Macroeconomics course and also one on maths or stats. Then, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious and that way inclined, what I would really love to do is to undertake a paid-for economics diploma for graduates. This would not only provide some proper recognition for my (not insubstantial) learning, but it would also be incredibly interesting to see how the two courses compare in terms of content, teaching, and so on. But that’s all pie in the sky for now – there’s a long way to go before I reach that point and for now it’s just a dream!

In the meantime, watch this space! I’ll write another update in a month or so to let you know how it all turned out. Maybe I’ll be in a better mood about MOOCs by then… 🙂

MOOCing About

mooc 2This year I’ve decided to undertake my first MOOC. If you don’t know what one of these is then I’ll let Wikipedia explain it to you as it’ll do a better job than I, but fundamentally it stands for Massive Open Online Course. It’s online study, mostly free of charge (sometimes there’s a paid option if you want actual credits or a particularly flashy certificate), and as far as I can see, on most any subject you can think of.

So why am I interested in undertaking a MOOC? I finished my undergraduate programme this time last year and was due to start my masters last October, however things changed and that plan has unfortunately had to be temporarily shelved. I enjoy learning though and, having worked with at least one foot in higher education for the last four years, I’m really intrigued by the MOOC offering, particularly at a higher education level. Is it possible that a free online course can really be as good as that provided by a university? Well, yes, it can in terms of content because many well known universities all over the world have their own MOOCs. But when you go to university you’re not just in it for the content, your also in it for the life experience, the learning experience, the support, the great qualification, the networking… University is about more than just the content of your lectures.

So far a MOOC won’t get you a degree or even university credits (except in some rare instances in the US). The whole system is based on honour, trusting that you want to learn and that you complete the course and exercises off your own back and that you take any tests unaided and in the conditions requested. In its current form this works well – all you get at the end is your learning (but provided in a structured, engaging way way) and, I’m told, some sort of e-certificate of completion which doesn’t count towards anything but presumably makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside and as though you’ve accomplished something. But, while you don’t receive any official recognition, the knowledge is what you’re presumably there for and who knows, maybe there’s a challenge or entry exam you can take to demonstrate equivalency of knowledge at your institution of choice.

So my journey starts here. I’ve signed up for a couple of courses, both different formats, subjects and providers. Here’s a bit more info about them and the differences between them:

Principles of Microeconomics

  • Provider: Saylor.org
  • Level: Undergraduate
  • Start when you like
  • Structure: 7 units, done at your own pace
  • Anticipated completion time: 124 hours
  • End of unit exams for practice purposes but pass determined by a final exam after the course has been completed
  • Part of a bigger programme for those who wish to continue their Economics studies (you can effectively “major” in economics if you complete 11 courses)
  • Anti-social (no tutor contact and minimal contact with peers. Though there is a discussion forum it appears to be mostly unused)

I don’t know much about economics so I’ll be starting from scratch on this one.

Principles of Project Management

  • Provider: Open 2 Study
  • Level: Unknown
  • Fixed start date
  • Structure: 4 modules over 4 weeks, complete with deadlines
  • Anticipated completion time: 16 hours
  • Individual end of unit exams only
  • Standalone course
  • A little social (I don’t think there’s any tutor contact but, again, there is a forum and presumably this will be used more considering everyone will be completing the course at the same time)

I already know a good bit about project management and have an Agile PM qualification so it will be easier for me to gauge the content for this one.

I have already started the microeconomics course and I’m really enjoying my first unit. While economics is certainly not an easy subject, the materials are well written and use lots of everyday examples to describe more complex ideas and models. I am finding it very accessible. There is a real mix of materials: some videos, some recorded lectures, some articles, some “textbook” reading, all broken down into bitesized chunks. Each unit and sub-unit suggests the amount of time you will need to allow and these can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as an hour. I’ve accessed various resources on PC, mobile and tablet but the only downside to studying on the go is that you really do need to take notes (on this subject anyway!) so you need a dedicated notebook and to have that with you at all times if you don’t want to have to repeat your activity.

So how do I think I’ll fare? I’d like to think I won’t become one of the drop out statistics (allegedly up to 90%) and, having completed my undergraduate programme on a part-time distance learning basis, think I’ll work better with the more flexible, deadline-free format as this is familiar territory for me and I’m used to managing my own study time (or, you know, not…). I think I’ll probably be a bit half-hearted with topics I find less interesting because ultimately it doesn’t really matter if I pass or fail the final exam as I’m not getting any official recognition for my work. I think I’ll find that lack of recognition frustrating when I finish, particularly if I have studied hard. But mostly I think I’ll be pleased with what I’ve achieved, and with the fact I will have have discovered, for free, whether I’d like to pursue my studies more formally in either field.

So we shall see! I’ll be keeping you informed over the coming weeks and months about how I’m finding my programmes. I will share my experiences and feedback, good and bad, and hopefully pique your interest to try a MOOC of your own 🙂


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Over ten years’ recruitment, employability, HR and sales experience in both the private and public sectors. I've worked in construction recruitment, FMCG headhunting, and in higher education on the employability agenda.

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