v6.2.3 - moving along, a point increase at a time

MOOC on vacation: what does "completing a MOOC" mean?

View from Itea, Greece

Some people bring a book on vacation (which I have) and others immerse themselves in the local culture (which I am also doing to some extent), but since I find myself lucky enough to be vacationing somewhere with fast wifi access I decided to continue to MOOC while I am on vacation from the day job. I honestly don't know how well the experiment will go, but I decided to follow three MOOCs. One on FutureLearn, focusing on management (making those connections with my MBA), and two MOOCs on MiriadaX, the Spanish MOOC platform: one focusing on social media and marketing, and another focusing on media studies called "the 3rd golden age of television."

I didn't really think about my MOOCing until I had a back and forth with a friend and colleague on a Facebook about "completing MOOCs" and whoever completes one gets a unicorn ;). I guess the point he was trying to make is that completion is mission impossible. This made me think of my presentation at last January's NERCOMP symposium on online and international education where I spoke about MOOCs, and as part of that presentation I discussed that I had completed so many MOOCs (around 30 at the time) and had dropped out of two. I also went to class central (a MOOC aggregator) to mess around with it and decided to start counting the specific MOOCs I've completed. Class central has a variety of categories for MOOCs such as: interested (in taking the MOOC), completed, partially completed, dropped, audited and taking right now.

Of course, the system relies on the user to self identify which label applies to which MOOC the learner/user has taken (or wants to take). This got me thinking about how people self identify their role, as learners, in MOOCs. I think the "dropped" and "partially completed" are a little problematic because learners may have some issues with identifying that they quit a MOOC. Issues of self-efficacy, morale, and anxiety may come up if people deem that not completing a MOOC is a failure of some sort. So, I won't spend a lot of time discussing that now. Perhaps in a future post.

The big question, for me, is how do we define "completed" or even "audited". In a regular college course the line between completion of a course and an auditor is clearly demarcated: the auditor gets an "aud" on their transcript and the completer gets a grade and some GPA points on their transcript. The amount of effort between the two categories may be the same, but the line of demarcation is the transcript. In a MOOC, I know that there are some MOOCs, like the Rhizo14 MOOC where I've clearly out in much more effort than an xMOOC (let's say something on EdX or coursera), but I count both the Alexander the Great MOOC (which I completed this spring) and rhizo as "completed" regardless of the effort (measured in products and time sunk in the course) put into the MOOC.

Even with xMOOCs there are different levels of engagement. On open2study I attempted to engage in the forums, whereas On coursera I don't. Sometimes it's about the platform, other times about the course design, others about the ration if chaos vs usefulness of the forum. The bottom line is that the forum tool is not used that often (at least by me). So, coming back to our original focus, what does it mean to complete a MOOC? If a participant in a MOOC complete 3/4 of the MOOC and gets what he needs out of it, can this constitute completeness? If a participant comes in and views the videos and does the quizzes, does his constitute completeness? In a traditional classroom we have a notion of what completeness is because it's designed to be facilitated by a faculty member, who grades assignments, which aren't optional. In a MOOC where sign up, participation, and engagement are optional, is the model of instructor-defined completeness rubrics still meaningful? If yes, why? If not, why not? If somewhere in the middle of yes and no, what does your conception of completeness look like?

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