Monday, August 17, 2015

How to be a successful learner in a MOOC

MOOCs (massive open online courses) have high dropout rates. It could well be that learners drop out of MOOCs because the content isn't relevant, the teacher is boring, the course is too hard, etc, but in this "age of MOOCs" it's perhaps good to be realistic and accept that teachers can't be responsible for every single student. Whether a MOOC has 100 learners or 100,000, the teacher is not going to be able to attend to learners individually. And who is going to take the biggest hit as a result of this?

Unprepared learners.

Unprepared learners don't do most of the following, whereas prepared learners do.
  1. Have the pre-requisite knowledge to study on the course
  2. Have sufficient fluency in the language of course instruction
  3. Have reliable access to the Internet
  4. Have a real interest in the subject of the course
  5. Read instructions closely
  6. Take the time to figure out how to do basic things (eg, how to submit a quiz or upload an assignment on the learning platform where the course is hosted)
  7. Set aside time to study on the course
  8. Accept that the teacher or moderator won't be able to give them personalized support
  9. Rely on themselves to resolve problems
  10. Ask for support on the discussion forum of the course (if there is such a forum)
  11. Take deadlines seriously
  12. Work on course activities methodically without being in a hurry
  13. Focus on the course for a sustained length of time without distractions (checking Facebook, email, etc.)
That's a long list and I'm pretty sure there are more points.

In my opinion, only points 1 to 3 are outside the learner's immediate control.

As an online course facilitator who is teaching increasingly large courses, I'm finding it quite frustrating to deal with more and more learners who keep stumbling in a course because they haven't read simple instructions (point 5 above) or noted deadlines even though these are communicated well in advance (point 11 above). Just these two things probably separate a huge number of successful MOOC learners from the unsuccessful ones.

If you're a learner in a MOOC (or just any online course) and you're serious about completing it, please make sure you are well prepared!

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