5 Ways To Get Your MOOC On

People love acronyms and one of the newest one in the learning industry is MOOC.  What is a MOOC you ask?  Maybe this illustration can help:

MOOC_poster_mathplourde

Image: “MOOC poster mathplourde” by Mathieu Plourde

The internet is an incredible vehicle for teaching and learning.  Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs, became popular about two years ago when colleges and universities realized the potential of this creative way to reach a lot of students at once. A MOOC basically is a course online that is open to many people at the same time.. Originally they were free and no-credit courses, but that has been changing.  There are all kinds of courses now available on the internet, from Chemistry to Pottery, and most of the top educational organizations in the world are developing them.  Sooner or later, you probably will take a MOOC.

Online education can be a real win for many students, especially those that can’t get to a classroom, but (based on the statistics that I am seeing), this type of learning has its challenges. According to research done by Shanna Smith Jaggars, Assistant Director of Columbia University’s Community College Research Center, 32% of students failed or withdrew from for-credit online courses (compared with 19% for equivalent in-person courses) 1 and, according to educational researcher Katy Jordan, MOOCs have generated 50,000 enrollments on average but with a completion rate below 10%. 2  Reading those statistics got me to thinking about how to help students do better (and maybe want to complete the course).

Here are my five suggestions on how to be successful when taking a MOOC:

1.  Practice Good Time Management

Knowing how to manage your time is critical when it comes to online learning.  It is just to easy to do everything else before you sit down to do your course work.  Everyday physical demands, like work, family, and community obligations, can get in the way of virtual activities.  To better manage your time you need to:

  • Understand the syllabus of the class and when assignments are due. (I actually print it out and put it in the front of my notebook – and yes, I take notes).
  • Add assignment due dates to your everyday calendar.  You need to make sure you allow yourself enough time to get the work done.
  • Make a ‘to-do’ list daily and make sure some MOOC activity is in there, every day.

2. Manage Your Work Environment

womanatdeskYour physical space is a critical factor of success when working online. A good study environment without distractions is essential to any student’s success but especially an online student.

  • Build a quiet space. Make sure that you have a private and quiet space to get your work done.  If you have kids, they should be somewhere else and pets should be walked before you sit down to work.
  • Build a functional space.  Make sure that the lighting in your space is sufficient and that you pay attention to the ergonomics of your computer/chair/screen/keyboard for maximum comfort.
  • Turn off your phone.  Make sure that people know you are taking a class between the hours of X and Y, so they leave you alone.
  • Turn off the TV and avoid games.  Control temptations by removing them from your reach during study time.  You might even consider uninstalling computer games if you find yourself playing “solitaire” instead of studying.
  • Shut down your browser (except for the class, of course).  It is easy to get lost on the internet, so make sure that you have no tabs open other than the class.  You can check Facebook later, when you are not in school.

3. Commitment and Motivation

Like with all schooling, the motivation and commitment to attend to what needs to be done to succeed is important.  But with online classes it may be the biggest success factor of all.  Unlike a class room course where you are surrounded by your peers and an instructor that can give immediate support, online students must figure a lot of things out on their own.  You have to be your own technical guru, know when to ask questions and how, do your online classwork every day no matter what, and keep working through stumbling blocks that come up.

  • Be committed to the process and understand what you want from the course.  What is your MOTIVATION?  There are many reasons to take classes, make sure that you have the willingness to succeed.
  • Understand how the classroom software works, especially when it comes to asking questions and requesting help.
  • Log in every day and make progress on your course, even if it is just a bit.  Students that do the best in online learning are those that make daily progress.
  • Persevere through the technical and other challenges that the online learning environment may pose to you.  Just keep at it.

4. Communications Skills

32661230When you are learning in an online environment, your written communication skills and reading ability are extremely valuable. It is up to the student to communicate their needs in writing almost exclusively because in online classes you are rarely seen or heard.  Unlike a physical class, the virtual world does not allow for non-verbal cues to tell the teacher that you don’t understand something, it will be up to you to ask, in writing.  Also, make sure that you are ready for a great deal of screen reading, though there may be some hard copy books as well.

  • Understand how the teacher and staff want to be communicated with.  Usually, online instructors allow for multiple ways to reach them. There should be instructions in the beginning of any course detailing things like when to email, what the instructor and teaching assistant’s office hours are, how to join discussion groups, team chat rooms, etc. By following the instructions and using the tools provided by the course, you will have the easiest time communicating with the staff.
  • Use your best business like communication style.  Unless told otherwise, the informal style of text messages and chats is not very effective when working with teachers and staff online. The more you can write in full sentences in a courteous tone, the better received your communication will be.  Even if you are frustrated or angry about something, remember that the teachers and staff at the other end of your communication deserve to be treated as the professionals.

5. Technical Understanding

You don’t need to be a geek to take a MOOC, but you do need to know your way around your computer and the software that the course is given in.

  • Take the course orientation on how to use the learning system, if one is offered.
  • Make sure the equipment you are working on meets the hardware and software requirements stated by the course.  If it does not you will want to fix your technical issues before you ever get started.
  • Make sure you are familiar with a few of the standard tools used in MOOCs: word processing software, spreadsheets, browsers (specifically how to get to places on the internet and how to download information).

 Have you taken a MOOC yet?  What worked for you?

animationfinal

Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

 

 

 

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References

Image 1: “MOOC poster mathplourde” by Mathieu Plourde {(Mathplourde on Flickr) – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mathplourde/8620174342/sizes/l/in/photostream/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MOOC_poster_mathplourde.jpg#mediaviewer/File:MOOC_poster_mathplourde.jpg

1. http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/presentation/moocs-unbundling-implications.html

2. http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html

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