MOOC Update: Week 1

Oslo_Universitet_2.jpg

Above is my university, the University of Oslo (or Universitet i Oslo to give it its Norwegian name). I’ve never actually stepped foot in Norway though. I am, however, a participant on the beginner’s Norwegian course ran by the university through the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platform, FutureLearn.

I decided when I started this blog to join in on the MOOC experience to see what it’s like for learners to be in a virtual or online classroom. “MOOC” was a term coined in 2008 (Liyanagunawardena et al, 2013) when higher education facilities started to offer their courses online to pretty much anybody who wanted to join. Jansen & Schuwer (2015) define MOOCs as being available to a very large number of participants, being free to use, online, and accessible at any time. This is in line with what I have come to understand a MOOC to be.

“Week 1” is a bit misleading, as it’s actually taken me just shy of two weeks to get through week one’s material (real life responsibilities and the like). First, I’ll explain how the course is set up so this makes a bit more sense, then I’d like to share my thoughts on the good and bad points I’ve found so far.

The course is split into four “weeks”. These “weeks” are actually two days of content, yet I have seen in my own experience, and through the comments on the course, that many people have not stuck to this timeframe. It is not impossible to cover the two days, but we all get busy in our day-to-day life! Thankfully, you won’t be kicked out of the course, even if you fall behind.

Each “day” is presented in around twenty steps, including videos, gap fill exercises, a chat bot, and a mini phonetics lecture. You are introduced to a group of international students studying at the university, whose lives are dramatized for the sake of the course. This is also paired with some talking head videos from the course leaders, who teach the Norwegian courses at the university itself. Mostly they just outline the learning outcomes.

So, how am I finding it so far?

Positives

+ I like that although there’s a timeframe, you can work at your own pace

+ There is more variety in the exercises than I actually expected and the inclusion of things like chatbots is appreciated

+ The course does not always teach everything it presents, allowing for self-study and some inductive learning

+ Free! Can you really complain when you’re not paying a penny to access some pretty good content?

+ Additional materials, like vocabulary and grammar sheets

+ Encouraged to use language at every step by contributing in the comments

+ There’s a mix of thematic and random vocabulary. As researchers such as Erten & Tekin (2008) have found, language learners can learn vocabulary better when vocabulary items are not grouped by theme!

Negatives

– Maybe it’s how I learn, but I’m not really all that fussed about any community aspect here. I like the comments being used for language practice, but being faced with 6,7, even 800 comments is not appealing to me at all

– I’m not sure how involved the course leaders are. They are there to introduce units and we are encouraged to follow their feeds, but it’s never explained why really. They reply to comments here and there, but which ones they reply to seem random. They are rarely answering questions students have, but rather making observations if someone said something interesting. Basicially, I’m getting hardly any feedback on my contribution, either from fellow students or teachers

– The feedback on the quizzes is often vague and uninspiring. To give them credit, they give feedback whether you answer correctly or incorrectly and there are sometimes hints.

– Although the phonetics lectures are a nice touch, the way they’re shot is a little bit…cringey. There’s a student involved who repeats the lecturer and I really have no idea why…

Neutral

~ I had to add this section because one thing I’m still really undecided on is the pace and amount of content. On one hand, it seems very overwhelming. We’re getting a lot of vocabulary thrown at us and moved from present to past tense in the space of a day, but nobody is telling us to take all this in at once, so perhaps it’s good just to have the resources there? I’m still undecided and want to revisit this point as I proceed on the course.

That’s all for now! I will keep you updated as I move through the course. Takk for at du leste!


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2 thoughts on “MOOC Update: Week 1

  1. Interesting piece, I’ve used FutureLearn myself for TESOL specific courses, but never language learning ones. Like you I found the study anytime aspect really appealing. I also like that you don’t necessarily have to do the entire lesson in one go, you can dip in and out and your not committed to long stretches of tuition.
    In the courses I’ve done there does seem to be a heavy focus on feedback from course participants
    and again like you I found it a bit overwhelming to plough through thousands of comments. The structure for this language course seems identical more or less to the non-language ones I’ve done with FutureLearn. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the uses of this course. Do you view it as a short free course giving you an introduction to the language or do you think this is something that a learner could genuinely use to learn the language? If so, do you think the structure would work for more in-depth language instruction?

    Like

    • Thanks for your comment 🙂
      I genuinely think people can learn like this and, for some, the more laidback approach will be very appealing. Courses like this can really go wrong for some people though because they need that extra push that they just can’t seem to give themselves, and they’ll soon just quit because there are no ramifications in doing so. I think we’re already seeing a big movement towards distance learning and MOOCs, and the benefits of that are multiple, including the ones we’ve already mentioned. I guess what I’m trying to say is it all boils down to the learner and their approach. Personally, as a learner, I quite like seeing things written down, so this course works quite nicely for me in regard to the grammar and vocabulary instruction. A course with even more video and audio content might suit somebody else though. Perhaps what we’re looking at is a need for choice in courses, but of course, that puts a lot of strain on the people developing them!

      Like

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