Another one about MOOCs

Some weeks ago I presented a scoop about MOOC participants. It stated that

Old, qualified people seeking further qualifications are the ones attending

This fact was supported by studies before, but now there’s a new study. Does digital competence and occupational setting influence MOOC participation? Evidence from a cross-course survey from the Journal of Computing in Higher Education finds

  • a medium age of MOOC participants of 43 years
  • a percentage of 81 of MOOC participants with tertiary education
  • high digital competence of MOOC participants
  • up to 6 participation in MOOCs and 4 completion of MOOCs by current MOOC participants

Accordingly, the study concludes that

MOOCs were a well-accepted alternative for unemployed people with a higher educational level and those workers who did not received support for professional development

You know I completely agree to that. In the Western World, MOOCs serve primarly as a continued higher education tool for those people having time and/or additional interests. This may also be one of the reasons for the famous high drop-out rates of 90%. Drop-outs may be adults just wanting some snippets of a topic or just checking out if they’re really interested.

But it makes me wondering if the ongoing hype around MOOCs really leads to the propagandized free education for everyone (having a fast enough internet access). Some sources say yes- like the Harvard Business Review which sent a survey to 780,000 people, from 212 countries and territories, thereby finding that those with low status report more benefits form their MOOC education.

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It remains open why in OECD countries the numbers are different- is it a thing of perception?

But for me it still remains mainly a hype about a new technology one has to host (too), a new tool one has to play around with (too), a new way of marketing one has to apply (too). Otherwise it seems hard to explain why more and more MOOC platforms appear, at least in Europe with mooin, imooc, and many many more.

Another aspect is propagated by the European Union. The EU is supporting the EMMA project, the European Multiple MOOC Aggregator Platform. Their aim is to

provide a system for the delivery of free, open, online courses in multiple languages from different European universities to help preserve Europe’s rich cultural, educational and linguistic heritage and to promote real cross-cultural and multi-lingual learning

They offer MOOCs from 11 different universities in multiple languages, so you can learn about gamification in Italian, or Internet Search in English thought a Spanish university.

To me this looks quiet European: A lot of effort to keep this structure called EU together by trying to enable cultural exchange. But who the heck wants to learn gamification in Italian?

6311fb9efe4501e2728851998e889477cd545a39But wait…. They also offer very short MOOCs where distinguished personalities speak about topics of general relevance. Like David Weinberger about The Networking of Knowledge. So I have to stop here. Old, qualified me needs to attend another MOOC……

This service has shut down

So it’s this time of the year when Jane Hart compiles her Top 200 Tools for Learning. It’s her 10th list of tools that help people in professional and personal learning, workplace learning, and education, and it’s based on votings by learning professionals worldwide. Some of the tools are (very) widely known and well established, like YouTube (this years’s No 1) and Twitter, Moodle, a bunch of Webinar services, presentation tools from PowerPoint to Prezi to Slideshare, and so on- check it out yourself.

But then there are all those other tools. New tools. The list used to be a Top 100 list, now it’s a Top 200 list. Which already says a lot. New on the list this year are e.g. Flipbuilder, which „provides Flash and HTML 5 flip book design software to build 3D flip-page effect e-books from PDF, images and Office files“. Or Curatr, „a social learning platform from HT2 which enables rapid delivery of gamified courses“. And many more.

Although I like to see new tools appearing, I immediately have to ask myself- how long will this service be alive? And what do you do if it’s discontinued??

Webtools4U2Use is a Wiki by K-12 school library media specialists, and on their Finding the Right Tool site, which is very rich too, they include an interesting blog post by Greg Garner dealing with those questions:

But there’s an ugly side to all these free web-based tools that have spawned dozens of conference presentations with cleverly-worded titles: sometimes they fail. I’m talking about the big fail: shutting down the service.

He advices 3 things:

  • There is no such thing as a free lunch. The web has conditioned us to believe that everything should be free. Except that nothing is free. If you like a service, pay for it. If there isn’t currently an option to pay, email the creator/developer and beg to send them money. (Seriously.)
  • Think About Ideas, Not Tools. Always ask yourself what you’re hoping your students will learn before you select your tool. (Don’t use the tool for the tool’s sake)
  • Think Categorically. Think about the various roles that each of your tools fill. Know what kinds of technology (not which tool) would best augment student learning

Read more at: What To Do When Your Favorite Tech Tool Calls it Quits

I completely agree, especially with No 1. That’s why I pay for most of the tools I use- normally there is a basic plan which is low-cost. I just subscribed to a resource planning tool for $2.50 per month. I guess that’s affordable, not?

Beside that, I always consider two other things:

  • Is this new tool really more functional than what I used so far? Or does it just look shinier than my old, established one?
  • Do I trust the developer enough to (already) implement the tool into my workflow? Or is it better just to play around with it with unimportant data and wait?

Most of the time I decide to wait. I do use it, I play with it, and if I like it, I buy the Pro version and hope many other people will do the same. But to include a tool into my personal Top Tool list, it definitevely has to prove to be long-lived. And up to that point, I only feed it with data or information I do not grieve for when it disappears.

One of the tools I just discovered and I am testing now is list.ly. You can check it out here:

Picture from macrumors.com