To MOOC or not to MOOC? Some post-MOOC reflections and advice

I feel that I lucked out with the choice of MOOC I made to experience the MOOC phenomena.

I’m not sure absolutely why I chose Coursera’s E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC (#EDCMOOC), run by the University of Edinburgh, but I am very glad I did.  I wanted to experience one of the big, new platforms, hence looking at Coursera and I wanted a topic that was of interest and use to me personally and professionally hence the choice I made.  Simples. I didn’t give it very much thought.

Whilst I’m aware of vastly variable MOOC experiences, I think the EDCMOOC was viewed as a success by the vast majority of active participants and the course team.  I would put it at one extreme whilst at the other are MOOCs that ceased to be part way through and those where there was little or no learner engagement, a critical piece in the puzzle when the instructor(s) cannot have nearly as much personal presence as in more traditional learning and teaching.

The EDCMOOC had 40,000 students enrolled and I think about 17,000 were active.  Of those, I don’t know how many went on to complete the assessment and peer assess at least three other students’ work.  If you did that then you were eligible for a Statement of Accomplishment from Coursera, a nice touch.


Whilst there are many flaws in the model, there are also benefits and for me, in my context, the benefits far, far outweigh the flaws.

I don’t see MOOCs replacing traditional degrees, not even close.  There are very few, if any, ‘typical’ 18 year olds able to pick out a series of MOOCs that will equal, roughly, a degree, never mind being able to articulate that to potential employers.  They will not have the necessary skills, understanding or wherewithal to do that.  Neither will teachers, parents or student advisers.  No-one does and MOOCs aren’t credited that way (yet).

I do see, however, a clear space emerging for MOOCs in the continuing professional development arena.  If I don’t need a qualification but I do need up to date knowledge, then what could be better than a free course designed and delivered by masters in that subject area?  I have updated knowledge and have joined new networks as a result of the EDCMOOC.  I am now in touch with sharp, cutting edge, impressive individuals who are also interested in e-learning and digital culture.  There are no geographical boundaries and the potential impact for me is mind blowing.  That’s a key result in my book, although absolutely not why I set out to engage with a MOOC.

If I was choosing again, and I am registered for two forthcoming MOOCs, I would be and have been, much more discerning.  Afterall, it is my precious time I am using and that is at a premium.

Getting the most out of a MOOC

1.       Decide WHY you want to engage with a MOOC and keep this in mind the whole time.   For example, if it is about developing a network then ensure you work at doing just that.  If it is about updating knowledge then milk the resources and discuss the concepts and implications. You may have several reasons and that is fine but make sure you plan how to address each one so you achieve all your goals at the end.

2.       Follow the guidance.  The course has been set up purposefully so take the course team’s advice on the order to do things, what is optional and what is core.

3.       Plan your learning and engagement.  If the course team indicates that 5 hours a week is roughly necessary then plan for that.  Little and often can work just as well as doing it all in one sitting and that approach gives time and space for the really important reflection process.  Be pragmatic and work with your context and what is possible in your life.  It is different for everyone.  Be selfish.

4.       Decide which social media you will use to engage and stick to your preferred platforms.  You cannot possible join every social media option so stick with what works for you.  You may want to develop new social media skills and here’s an ideal opportunity as there is a clear purpose.  You will undoubtedly find others in a similar position and going on the journey together can be very rewarding.

5.       Blog about your experience and learning.  This helps you to focus your thinking and reflect on your learning, whilst engaging with others in a similar space to you. Work on connecting with others who are blogging so you can share ideas and reflections.  This may be how the MOOC is designed but if not, you can make it happen for you.

6.       Talk about it!  We all talk about what is happening in our lives and if you are taking your MOOC seriously you will naturally want to talk about it.  In what can be quite a lonely space, you can make your MOOC come alive by sharing it with non-MOOCERs and MOOCERs alike.

7.       Be selfish.  If you don’t put YOU at the centre of your MOOC no one else will.  What you put in equates to what you will get out.