I teach online for University of Phoenix and wanted to see how a MOOC differed from a typical online college course. Other University of Phoenix instructors were questioning the value of MOOCS in a discussion in the Faculty Forum. Here are some of my answers (edited to fit this blog).
"I'm taking the Gamification course now. It is taught like a regular college class and there's a Signature Track for a 'Verified Certificate.'
There are three levels of participation: participating as much or as little as the person attending wants, submitting all of the weekly quizzes and assignments on time for a Statement of Completion (what I'm trying to do), or paying a small fee and meeting some grading standards for a Verified Certificate from University of PA (but no course credit)."
I wondered how Coursera was making money, but even if only 1000 students out of the initial 63,000 pay the $39 (to be raised to $69 in the future) for a Verified Certificate, that's $39,000, which they probably split in some way with the University sponsoring the course. Coursera offers over 300 MOOCs now and is growing.
So far the course I took was well-designed and paced. The quizzes and assignments were relevant and measured course objectives. I considered it a fairly easy course, but that might be because there isn't much to Gamification and my Ph.D. is in Instructional Technology, and much of what is covered in this course I already knew.
Here's an email from Prof. Kevin Werbach on the status half way through:
"Hard to believe, but we're just about halfway done.
I spoke yesterday at the Gamification Summit conference in San Francisco about my experiences developing the course, and I made the point that the real heroes are all of you. I continue to be impressed by the time and effort so many of you put in. My team is working hard to keep things running smoothly, and address any problems as well as we can.
For those who are curious, here are some current statistics: We have just under 63,000 students registered for the course.
• Over 16,000 submitted Quiz 1
• Over 12,000 submitted Quiz 2.
• Over 10,000 students submitted Written Assignment 1
The gradual decrease is normal. Overall, these percentages are similar to the Fall 2012 session of the course, and substantially higher than most other MOOCs.
Please keep in mind that you can still participate in the course even if you did not complete an assignment. Also, the Statement of Accomplishment and Verified Certificate are based on total points, so missing one of the early assignments won't prevent you from earning them."
The main difference between this MOOC and a smaller, more manageable number of students is that students grade other students in Peer Reviews. While this is a nice exercise in seeing how others answered the questions, there's no uniformity in grading since some students (obviously) have a greater grasp of the subject than others.
When a class has 10,000 to 20,000 students all turning in assignments and grading each other the results cannot be very reliable. I'm assuming Prof. Werbach and/or his TA's graded students on the Signature Track otherwise the Verified Certificate would seem of dubious value.
Despite teaching two IT classes for University of Phoenix at the same time I took the Gamification MOOC, I hung in there and finished with 79.4% which was enough to qualify for the Statement of Accomplishment. Close to 5900 students out of approx. 62,000 who registered finished with a passing grade of 70% or better.
The Statement of Accomplishment doesn't provide any college credit and I'm not sure what else it is good for, but I like knowing I put in enough effort to finish and pass. I didn't have enough time to put my full attention and effort into the assignments, but I learned more than I knew before taking the class.
Based on this one course, which isn't much to base a sweeping generalization on, I would say that MOOCs are here to stay.
I just signed up for a new MOOC on Dinosaurs. The Gamification MOOC was 6 weeks. The new one, Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology, is 12 weeks. Dino 101 offers not only a Letter of Accomplishment but actual course credit from the University of Alberta.
Why am I taking a Massive Open Online Course on Dinosaurs? I just want to learn more about them. I don't plan to finish all of the assignments for credit, but I originally didn't plan to finish the Gamification course either, but I cranked it up in the last half of the course to finish with a B-.
If anyone else is interested in taking Dino 101, you need to sign up soon. It starts on September 4th. It's free and sounds like fun.
You can check out other MOOCs on Coursera. They are also expanding and hiring in Mountain View.