I am probably the luckiest MOOC slacker in the entire world. I looked at writing assignment 4 a couple of days ago. Two of the three questions made me scratch my head and go, “When did we ever even cover that subject?” The other one was about the Industrial Revolution. I actually know something about the Industrial Revolution. I wrote my 750 word essay in half an hour and submitted it about two weeks early.
This doesn’t mean that I have put nothing Jeremy has taught me to use. I actually opened up a new tab during the last industrialization lecture and wrote down the following points in Evernote for future use:
Organic power switches to inorganic power.
Instead of locating plant near energy source, the energy can be moved to the plant.
Use that Peter Breughel peasant Image to illustrate the pre-industrial norm?
I also had an earlier note about railroads as being the result of engines getting small enough that they could became mobile. Jeremy, I promise that if M.E. Sharpe does give me the contract to write that early-nineteenth century industrialization prequel that I wrote a proposal for a few weeks ago, you will be prominently featured in the acknowledgements because this MOOC has really helped. I find it interesting that the stuff I remember best is about the material I knew the most about going in rather than the least. In terms of personal practicality then this MOOC stuff has been a remarkable success.
However, Jeremy’s platform really isn’t serving the cause of global education very well at all. I’ve already complained about the old method of lecturing not fitting the new MOOC delivery system. As I’m writing about the assignments, I want to elaborate on how much I miss having a syllabus to fall back upon.
The class does have an announcements page. When Hurricane Sandy led Jeremy and folks to add a few days to the last assignment, that announcement appeared there. It also came via e-mail. The revised schedule appeared there, but that schedule keeps dropping further down the page the more announcements there are. There’s a page where the writing assignments are listed with links where you can submit your work and see your grades, but those assignments are just numbered and lettered. They aren’t even labeled by the question which means that I had the darnedest time remembering what the last question I answered happened to be.
Even when you find your question, you have to keep going returning there over a two-week period as the assignment progresses. It all makes me wonder whether some of these people who aren’t submitting assignments have the time to do the work, but they’re just boycotting the amazingly bad interface they’d need to master to get full credit (if there even is such a thing in a MOOC).
Even before Jeremy began reading this blog, I particularly enjoyed reading his weekly e-mails because they made me feel less like a number. While he doesn’t really address the class directly on video, he clearly writes his own e-mails. This helps bring a personal touch to a rather soulless system. Yet the extension e-mail was about a paragraph long, and I believe that there was no weekly e-mail at all again last week. This seems particularly unfortunate as that e-mail certainly could have helped me navigate my assignment due date related confusion.
A few days ago, while searching for the best way to contact my satellite TV company, I discovered a website called GetHuman.com. Speaking of world history, I’m old enough to remember the days that when it was something of a scandal that your customer service operator might be talking you from Delhi, India instead of Terre Haute, Indiana. Now we’re just happy to get a human, any human at all.
Maybe there should be a site called GetProfessor.com for students who feel alienated by the impersonal nature of the MOOCS that Coursera offers us. I feel very fortunate to have this platform which my superprofessor reads. What avenues do the other 81,999 students in my course possess?