MOOCS – evolution for educators

We are coming to the end of an online course –

Here are a few initial thoughts on the experience that may be useful when considering taking or developing online courses.

The subject:

The subject was one that had a clear reason for me to study (I will be teaching this topic soon) and this is helpful in terms of motivation to study.

In general it is probably important to consider the motivation before starting a course. In some cases ‘because it sounded interesting’ may not be enough.

The content:

The content was clearly presented by subject experts who were clearly able to speak from a position of authority, both in terms of knowledge of evolution and associated pedagogical content knowledge. This is helpful.

The level:

This turned out to be about right for me, though some parts introduced a lot of topic specific vocabulary without much or any scaffolding. In some sections the course was frustrating as it assumed quite a bit of knowledge. This would seem to be a significant challenge with this type of course as having the content and delivery predefined means it is not possible to be flexible to take account of students needs or abilities. This may account for the high drop-out rate that some of these courses have.

The learning environment:

The site was clear and easy to navigate and had a lot of resources – almost an overwhelming amount. The key lectures, essays, quizzes and assignments were easy to find. The discussion forums were much more passive in this group than in the previous course I took.


The weekly commitment was probably 2-3 hours or so over 4 weeks. This was manageable. Having the relatively short course period seemed a good idea as sustaining motivation over a longer period would be difficult.


This was mostly by multiple choice with multiple attempts allowed. It was relatively straightforward to complete these tasks, thought it was not always clear how the class material supported the concepts tested – other knowledge was assumed. There was also quite a high language comprehension level expected and I imagine this would be challenging for ESL learners.

The course also involved a written task with peer assessment. The task was quite interesting though it was difficult to see it as a developmental task  – mostly I relied on pre-existing knowledge for this task. The peer assessment involved three people reviewing the work I did, yet only generated one short and bland comment – this was disappointing.

Other issues:

It was useful to do this in parallel with Greg to have a real person to talk to about some of the things in the course – this is useful for motivation.

Timing matters – if this course had been during a reporting period it would have been difficult.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: