Mooc: No, make that purgatory

I am quickly becoming disheartened in this realm.


Years ago when UBC first leapt into online learning in what is now the (amazing) MET program, there were courses offered in cooperation with TEC de Monterrey. I was completing my MA at the time (Mulroney was PM; Clinton was President), and a couple of colleagues were enrolled in some of the courses as electives.  As this was the beginning of wholly online learning, three of the classic pitfalls seemed to be in play there:

  1. Understaffing: not enough staff to cultivate and nurture the learning community
  2. Workload: burying the students in reading and activities to make for a lack of “contact time”
  3. Hyperenrollment: since no physical classroom was required, enrol everyone who wants to take the course!

To be fair, #3 was a side product of the discourse required to get buy-in for online offerings: we’re running out of classrooms and we keep having to cap enrolments. But very quickly people learnt that hyperenrolling and burying students with content didn’t correlate with better learning. They’re the online learning equivalent of the divorced parent who over-disciplines their kid out of fear.

This course is definitely hyper-enrolled, though at least most of us aren’t paying for it. Or not paying much. Regardless, the discussion forums are out of control: trolls, pedants, a few people dealing with mental health issues. As this is course managed by a major MOOC consortium, these aren’t issues that should be: surprising, or unmanageable. There needs to be a purge of those who have no intention of engaging with the community with any level of integrity or collegiality. Dissent is not the issue.


This is the second week and we have another set of readings. Of the three, only one is academic: the others are policy documents. I think there’s certainly a place for policy, but so far academic writing is getting short shrift in here. That the professor doesn’t hold a post-graduate credential might have something to do with this.


A couple of more microlectures (27 minutes) from the professor (not bad, given their desktop modality) this week. And a sort of microlecture on writing a policy memo (27 minutes). This last resource is better served by detailed instructions.

Also, several videos of staged seminars with former students of the prof. (38 minutes) These are rather unengaging and a bit leaden. The actual sessions probably weren’t, but it’s one of the challenges of tranferring materials to video from teaching contexts. But these add little–and take a lot of time to consume.

Overall I’m struggling not to disengage here…