A Tale of Two MOOCs 「慕課」的故事

Professional development is something that we love to talk about at HKLC, and MOOCs have been increasingly cropping up in these conversations. One of our recent suggestions for participants in the Mentoring Program was to check out online courses together. The topic of MOOCs has also come up at the university where I work, so it felt like the right time for me to check them out myself.

At the same time, I was wary about jumping on the MOOC bandwagon. While there has been a great deal of excitement around MOOCs, in recent years there has been a seemingly equal amount of criticism. Citing low completion rates and the impersonal nature of courses with thousands of students, some are now even advising us to "forget MOOCs".

With the debate ongoing, I figured that the best way to have an informed opinion was to try them out for myself. So over the past few months I have completed two courses - below are my reflections on the experience.

圖書館同行最喜歡談論的就是專業發展。談話之中慕課一詞出現的次數漸多,例如,在「師友計劃」中,其中一項建議是導師和學員一起探索線上課程。外,在我工作的大學亦偶爾談到慕課話題。因此,我認為該是時候了解一下慕課到底是甚麼。

慕課雖然引起了大眾興趣,但近年也出現了很多批評的聲音。原因是雖然報讀的人數多達數千人,但完成率偏低、而且課程非個人化。有些人更建議我們忘記慕課呢。坊間的辯論不斷,我認為若要判斷慕課的好、壞,最好的方法就是自已去體驗。在過去幾個月,我完成了兩個課程。以下是我的一些反思。

FutureLearn employs a clean and minimalist design aesthetic

FutureLearn employs a clean and minimalist design aesthetic

MOOC 1 - Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (FutureLearn)

Established by the Open University and offering courses since 2013, FutureLearn is perhaps one of the lesser-known MOOC platforms. I became aware of it through work, and decided to take a course on learning and teaching in higher education offered by UNSW, partly because I was familiar with one of the professors.

A major focus of FutureLearn courses is on discussions. My fellow students and I were given stimulus materials - videos and articles mostly - and then given some discussion points. We then took to the forums built into the platform to discuss. This worked quite well, and I did get responses to my posts from users all over the world.

While there were a few simple multiple choice quizzes, the exercises were mostly built around compiling an ePortfolio. I followed the instructions closely (you can find my ePortfolio here), and the course culminated in a couple of other students giving me some peer feedback. I thought that was pretty neat, but I would have loved to have gotten some feedback from a teacher too. This is illustrative of one of the criticisms of MOOCs - students generally don't get personalized feedback from educators.

慕課一:基礎高等教育的學與教(FutureLearn)

FutureLearn是由英國公開大學於2013創辦的,是一個較鮮為人知的慕課平台,而我因為工作認識了這個平台。在這裡學習一個由新南威爾斯大學提供的基礎高等教育的學與教其中一個原因是我認識這個課程的一位教授。

課程中,主要的教學材料是影片、文章和問題討論。FutureLearn著重討論交流,我和其他學生會在討論區進行討論。這個方式很好,我在這個平台得到來不同地方的學生的回應。此外,我們要完成測驗和習作,分別是簡單的多項式選擇題和編寫學習歷程檔案。我跟隨指示完成了我的習作(按此查看我的學習歷程檔案)。

到課程的尾聲,我得到了同儕給我的回饋。不過我希望可以得到教師給我回饋這是公眾對慕課的批評之一,因為普遍來說,導師不會給予學生個別回饋。

Screen grab from the first lecture - Full subtitles and transcripts are provided

Screen grab from the first lecture - Full subtitles and transcripts are provided

MOOC 2 - Introduction to Data Analysis using Excel (edX)

edX is one of the bigger players in the MOOC space, and was founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012. There are a lot of courses to choose from, but in the end I chose this course from Microsoft because I have always felt my Excel skills are below par.

The structure of this course was rather different from that in the FutureLearn course. Instead of videos and articles, the course content was delivered by one lecturer (who was very good!) with links to additional readings. Each lecture is followed by a knowledge check (multiple choice questions about the lecture content) followed by a lab exercise. This involves the student downloading an Excel file of example data and working through the instructions provided to arrive at an answer.

I have to say that I found this to be a more compelling experience compared to the FutureLearn course. The questions count towards a course grade, which made the experience more challenging (in FutureLearn you simply need to mark the various modules as complete in order to progress). I was inspired to work hard to figure out the correct answer, and it was a great feeling to crack a tough problem.

After completing both courses, I also think that the subject matter of the edX course lent itself better to the online learning experience. Rather than the complex questions about the nature of teaching and learning in higher education that characterized the FutureLearn course, learning to use a piece of software was a much more concrete experience that was better suited to the type of automated assessments that are typically used in MOOCs.

慕課二:基礎試算表數據分析(edX)

edX是由哈佛大學及麻省理工學院於2012合辦的,在慕課中擔當了一個重要的角色。這裡有很多課程可供選擇。最後,我選擇了一個由微軟公司提供的課程,因為我覺得自己對試算表的應用技巧不夠成熟。

edX課程架構與FutureLearn的截然不同:講師演講課程的內容,教材包括一些附加讀物,而非單單只有影片和文章。當完成每一課,我們會做一個自我評估(完成幾道有關該課的多項式選擇題)及實驗練習,包括下載Excel檔案和模擬數據,根據指示找出答案。

我不得不說edX課程較,因為自我評估和實驗練習都關係到成績,使這次體驗更具挑戰性。我努力找出正確的答案,也很享受把棘手的問題解決的感覺。(在FutureLearn,學生只需要在各單元標記完成便可以完成課程

完成兩個課程之後,就課程的主題方面,我亦認為edX的較適合網上學習。自動評估是慕課常用的工具,它較用於具體教學的課程,如學習使用軟件。而FutureLearn的課程特色則是透過複雜問題學習基礎高等教育的學與教的本質。

Am I addicted to MOOCs?

Initially I was worried that I would end up not completing the first course. But I found myself strangely compelled to complete the course modules, to the extent that I was often ahead of schedule! On edX in particular, seeing the progress bars fill up as I completed exercises and lab questions was highly addictive.

Admittedly, another big part of my motivation for completing the courses was the fact that I had paid up front for certificates. You only get these if you complete the course, so if you don't finish them you will have wasted your money. To be clear though, you can take these courses completely for free.

The certificates themselves are pretty cool. Very much like the Credly badges that HKLC has done for mentoring, you receive an online certificate that you can add to online profiles like LinkedIn. Here are my certificates for both the FutureLearn and EdX courses. FutureLearn also sent me a handsome printed certificate as well (though I am not sure where to put it!).

I seem to have well and truly caught the MOOC fever. As elaborated on above, I had a better experience with the Microsoft EdX course, and am planning to take another course in the same series.

Have you had a MOOC experience, perhaps on one of the other big platforms out there? Questions about MOOCs and how they work? Feel free to leave a comment below!

我上癮了嗎?

起初,我擔心無法堅持到底。但出乎意之外,我很有決心地完成所有單元,而且我常常提前完成各單元呢!尤其是edX,當完成習作後,看著進度欄漸漸被填滿的感覺實在太令人上癮了!另一個讓我堅持下去的原因是我已經付證書的錢,我必須完成課程才可以取得證書,否則便浪費了金錢。不過,這些課程是可以免費報讀的。

完成課程後,我取得了證書。這些證書很棒呢!就像我們早前發送給圖書館同行的參與者Credly徽章一樣,可以展示在個人資料中如LinkedIn。這兩張是我從FutureLearnedX得到的電子證書。FutureLearn更寄了一張很漂亮的證書給我呢!(雖然我不知道放在哪才好)

您有沒有學習慕課的經驗呢?或許是其他慕課平台?如果對慕課有任何問題,請您在下面留言給我們吧!

Text by: Chris