Wednesday, January 30, 2013

1/30 MOOC Update: Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application (FOEPA)

The Coursera course Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application (FOEPA) started on Monday with a number of issues;

  • We were instructed to create groups of 20 students using a Google Spreadsheet. Seems simple enough, but with a few thousand people trying to edit a single document at a time, it quickly became a morass. Rows were copied, people were deleted from groups, and the site used their mobile theme because of the load.
  • I never realized how limited Coursera's discussion forums are. I can't search by discussion forum, see a person's posts (namely mine) on one page, and change the default viewing method. 
  • Having the default to a discussion forum be that you subscribe to it, with no options for digest emails, has blown up my inbox. Sure its a pretty simple thing to change, but its annoying.
For the first assignment we were asked to respond to a few readings. Below is one of my responses.

The article Online Teaching and Classroom Change: The Trans-Classroom Teacher in the Age of the Internet by Susan Lowes focuses on research based solely on survey results. I find the reliance of survey results in education research, and specifically education technology or online education research, an overused and inappropriate research method. Survey results in most research are based on a person's own perceptions of their performance, and are colored through the participants' biases. I would find research that contains both survey results of participants, with objective data gathered from the LMS, student performance, and possibly outside reviewers with a standardized rubric/scoring mechanism, to be much more convincing.
For example, from the results they claim that "... computer science or programming reported making the fewest changes." This could easily be confirmed by having an outside reviewer look at both the online and face-to-face course, and with a rubric, determine how different they were.
Moving away from research, I know this ties into a bugbear education folks have about data, it is viewed as making people (instructors) accountable for human (student) behaviors. I'm not suggesting that schools, colleges, and universities require objective criteria to measure faculty, but we have to put this data in context, and use it appropriately. I would be very uncomfortable with an administrator looking at this data from a business perspective. I know if the data is available it may be misconstrued in this way, but if faculty don't develop a context around this data first, administrators, deans, and chairs will.

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