28 September 2013

ModPo MOOC Avalanche!

So here I am again, a student on another MOOC - this time Coursera's "Modern American Poetry" (ModPo). First off, let me say that it is just brilliant. I was all for giving it a miss as I thought the timing was impossible (start of term) but I got completely hooked on the first week. I love the poetry, I love the discussions to watch, I love the whole world of meaning that is teased out of every line. Unfortunately real life term has indeed started with a vengeance meaning lots of teaching and weariness (not to mention family & kids etc.) and now by the end of Week 3 I am hanging on to my MOOC by the very slenderest thread.

Talking about this to my husband (who also did a MOOC a while back), we stalled on the question "who are MOOCs for?"

ModPo clearly states it is "fast paced" and that it requires 4-6 hours a week. Yet this week just gone there were 14 poems (by 4 authors) to study with at least one video discussion to watch of each (usually about 15-20 minutes) plus additional audio to listen to. There was also a wider discussion of Imagism and an additional painting discussion. You have 2 quizzes and this week there were 4 peer evaluations to complete on the work we did the week before as well as being required to participate in forum discussions. Who has the time to do all this to any kind of depth? Is it just people not working or full time students? Spending an hour per poem might be a reasonable average if you include learning the most basic facts about the poet and perhaps a few new technical terms per poem. The whole business of studying poetry - the joy of it - is the mulling and the re-reading. The way the course is run seems to prevent the kind of deeper enjoyment and reflection that should be the whole point. Never mind participation in the monster forums which buzz with ideas and conversation.

I don't really know who is the target audience when MOOCs get designed but I'd recommend a bit of flexibility and compassion - how about a reasonable-sized "core" each week with further reading and activities for those with the time? Also, keeping the focus of each week clear so you can immerse yourself in it fully, rather than trying to deal, in this case, with multiple new poets and ideas. Sure, I could just forget about completing ModPo and enjoy it at my own pace, but part of the beauty of the MOOC is feeling you're in step with all the others & meeting the deadlines. I also hate to be a quitter but this time I'm just going to have to get over that...

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