Something for everyone? #edcmooc

There have been a couple of themes of particular interest to me in the forums over the past week.  A lot of conversation, first of all, has run with the “thought experiments” that can be derived from science fiction to explore the impact of technology on human life and society.  I always find these stimulating in their own right.  But there have also been many excellent recommendations of films, books and authors that I have not come across before.  And some threads have addressed the topic of games and gamification in support of learning, which is a particular interest of mine.  We have a course on game-based / game-informed learning in our Masters programme, and it is running at the moment, so there are many cross-linkages for me.

I have also been browsing around in the blogs linked from the EDC News collection.  One item of particular interest – science fiction linked, but not science fiction – was an interview with Isaac Asimov from 1988 on technology and learning; including why you should learn about baseball if you want to, and how that might bring you to questions about mathematics and physics.  As the blogger, David Hopkins, observed, for a conversation that happened nearly quarter of a century ago, it is remarkable just how right, and level-headed, Asimov was.  I will certainly be using this video in teaching in the future.  Or is that the present?

Prominent in the blogs has been discussion of the issue of the need for connectivity, and how it cannot be assumed – either technically, or constitutionally.  I particularly liked a blog from Jeff Merrel making a comparative analysis of different MOOC styles.  One important point for me was about the valuing of connection over content, and the place of blogging versus the discussion forum in an online course.  This reminded me of the oft repeated quote from Cory Doctorow about content and conversation.

I have been watching some valuable connections and interactions going on in various places around the course – both blogs and forums.  Half-way through now, and for some, no doubt, the discomfort increases, but some are finding their feet, and making their own way.  Jen raised some important points about the need to understand who is actually being served by the MOOC format; and this (our) MOOC format in particular.

People are doing different things with the MOOC content and conversation; some are weaving it into their lives, reflecting on the interactions between for-credit courses that they are working on and the topics and issues being flagged up by MOOC colleagues.  Some are framing their own questions that the stimulus reading and video materials seem to have raised for them, beyond anything that the designers might have had in mind.

In passing, I like that this is being referred to as “the Scottish MOOC”.  Perhaps some play on Macbeth.  Don’t worry – I’m not an actor.  It’s not unlucky for me.

Hamish Macleod
@hamacleod

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Lessons about forum design from EDCMOOC

It seems clear that the Coursera forum tool was built to facilitate factual questions and answers, not conversations or connections. Our EDCMOOC participants are trying to push it much further, and the cracks are definitely showing. Here’s my shortlist of things that Coursera could do to make their forum tool more conducive to networking and conversation. We’ll be passing these on to the Coursera team. Many of these points are pulled from suggestions in the EDCMOOC ‘feedback to Coursera’ forum, and additional suggestions or comments are welcome. I’ll probably add to this post over the next few days, too.

Networking:

Implement a ‘follow’ button so people can keep track of others they want to read more from.

The profile page should show all of the posts from that person.

Need to be able to favourite and link back to particular posts and store those favourites.

Search:

Results need to indicate which subforum a thread is in.

Subforums should be searchable.

Need the ability to search within a particular thread.

Need to be able to search by member of the class including yourself and see all of someone’s posts.

Comments:

Should be collapsible for easier reading.

It should be possible to reply to a comment.

Subscribing:

As many threads are very long, subscribing to just a post and its comments would be useful.

Daily summary of forum post threads to which you subscribe.

When a new post notification arrives by email, the link should take you directly to that post (not just to the thread).

Browsing:

Sort across a forum or all forums to see posts in date order.

The ability to sort by top votes.

Groups:

an optional grouping mechanism, where randomised groups of any size (determined by the teachers?) can be either automatically created, or people can choose to be allocated to one.

a mechanism for people to create groups (geographical, topical and so on) and invite others to join.