Thursday, October 3, 2013


MOOCs have been a common topic in articles and blogs about distance and blended learning for a few years now. I have toyed with the idea of looking further into these because I am involved in teaching a course that uses a blended learning approach and because I  have used a range of online and blended courses for my own education over the years. Some good, some appalling.

Initially I was attracted to a course being run by Moodle - it's first MOOC. Moodle is used by a number of schools and tertiary institutions ( including the one I work for) as a learning platform or LMS for students. Other organisations choose to use Blackboard, WebCT or Cecil and you may have heard of those if you havent heard of Moodle. Now this isnt an advert for Moodle so I think thats enough background.

I have managed to learn a bit about Moodle on  my own but not nearly enough to make it really useful.
So I enrolled in the four week online course which has just finished. It had over 8000 participants from all over the world - more than 50 languages used. It was more time consuming than I thought it would be but that was mainly because I was incorporating ideas from other students into my work as well as completing the weekly tasks. The final week was most challenging because I got behind while getting marking done at work. But all PD can be like that. For the most part it was manageable and inspiring although any possibility of being part of a learning community was made
impossible by the sheer scale of the enrollment. For me that was OK. I learn well in a distance environment. For others this didnt work.

I was further seduced into the world of MOOCs by a mention on Facebook of a MOOC that would analyse connections between literature, film and online games and the topic was Lord of the Rings. They had me at Literature .

The course is called "Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative" and is run on Coursera and taught by Vanderbilt University. I thought it might be a useful way to compare two different types of MOOCs and learn a little more about them.

Secretly I also wanted an excuse to learn  to play online games. I was fooling myself as this aspect of the course was far too time consuming. Luckily the course did not require participation in the game unless one wanted a Distinction certificate. I did want one but it was not going to happen. So each week I watch several 4-20 minute video chats and lectures. Just perfectly sized to fit in a lunch break or after work or after dinner. Each has a mini quiz and each week ends with a larger quiz. 

I have really enjoyed this non ECE work and an opportunity to drag out books from previous study as we compare Tolkien and Keats, LOTR and Northrop Frye's Hero archetype.

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