Before I start with the problems, I’d like to call out that Coursera, iVersity, and Udemy are doing a wonderful job in providing education at a ridiculously low cost. It is remarkable how much they have achieved and I am sure they’ll make a significant impact on the evolution of the human race. Now, let’s get into some areas of improvement.While I was taking the courses, I realized they all had some common problems, which I could bucket in two categories:
- Design – Engagement by Communication and Collaboration
- Delivery – Beyond Videos
Design – Engagement and Collaboration
I signed up for three courses with Coursera: Gamification, Human Computer Interaction, and Psychology. I completed first two successfully. But the Psychology one bored me, hence I opted out. Even the courses I managed to complete had varied levels of engagement designed into courses. This is consistent with what I noticed at iVersity and Udemy.
Consistency in design and quality leads to a learner engagement problem.
The type of engagement was similar between Coursera and iVersity. They both used assignments, quizzes, and discussion forums to trigger engagement. Neither of them had any social platform that enabled collaboration and peer-to-peer communication. This surprised me considering we are living in a world where Facebook is making billions and the average What’s App employee is a millionaire!Anyways, at least Coursera and iVersity had discussion forums, Udemy doesn’t even have that. It is asynchronous video-based learning all the way! I mean there are many LMSes out there that offer a social platform. For example, Moodle and ATutor have basic social platforms. LearningStone has a more usable and polished social platform for learner-to-learner engagement and teacher-to-participant engagement. In the absence of a social platform, how do participants taking MOOC courses communicate with each other?You guessed it…by creating groups in Facebook and LinkedIn!!!
LearningStone has taken cues from Facebook Image Source: www.learningstone.com
Delivery – Beyond Videos
Now for the second problem; it is in a way related to engagement. Coursera, iVersity, and Udemy all seem to favor videos as the preferred mode of imparting instructions. In the case of Coursera, all the courses were heavy on video-based lectures and many were actually boring. Udemy had a similar problem. The Storytelling course delivered through iVersity had amazing videos. They were extremely well designed and highly engaging.It is understandably difficult and effort intensive to make terrific videos. Not everyone has a Hollywood budget and access to such a talent pool. The question that came to my mind is, “Whatever happened to the other forms imparting instructions?” For example, the course on Gamification could have had a simulation that helped learners pick and choose game elements and then see how the design would work with some fictitious audience or even with the other participants.Video-based learning might be great, but there are some eLearning best practices that should always be applied. I do not believe videos are the best mode of delivery for all subject matter; I suspect, many will agree with me.
It is indeed a formidable task designing, delivering, and managing the creation of a good MOOC. However, it is a cardinal sin in learner engagement to not apply eLearning best practices and provide a social platform for collaboration and social learning.