Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dave Cormier’s Way: More Tips on How to be Successful in a MOOC

·         MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) includes being “open;”
·         This should also involve being “open” to different ways of success.

Dave Cormier:
·         Coined the term “MOOC” in 2008(2);
·         Is an educational activist;
·         Is a Researcher;
·         Is an online community advocate, and;
·         The Project Lead for Student Relations Management at the University of Prince Edward Island.

·          How do you move forward after registering for an MOOC (e.g. “Thingamajigits”)
·         Cormier’s way of success involves five steps: 1) Orient 2) Declare 3) Network 4) Cluster and 5) Focus.

(1)    Orient Yourself
·         Find location of course materials. Gather them or bookmark them:
o   Where are the course materials?
o   Where are the links that you will need every week?
o   What  times are the live sessions?
·         You don’t have to cover every piece of course material but the more you cover, the more you can be involved in course discussion, and other course activities.

(2)    Declare Yourself
·         You will need to have a place to gather and declare your thoughts and reflections.
·         For this, you may start a blog or use the discussion forum that is part of the course.

(3)    Network
·         Identify people with similar interests and people to discuss your course work with;
·         Develop your network by exchanging information with people in your blog or forum;
·         Make online connections with these people by posting your comments on  your course material.

(4)    Cluster (Needed After a Few Weeks of Networking)
·         You don’t need to connect with everyone;
·         Find yourself a cluster of people with similar interests and passions;
·         Consider forming a community for continued networking – even after the course has been completed.

(5)    Focus
·         Half-way through your course, your mind may start to wander;
·         Ask yourself again for the real reason you are taking the course;
·         Draw on your Cluster to help you focus on achieving what you need to get out of your course.

Dave Cormier’s way of success requires more than just studying the course materials.  It involves being on top of the course components, and identifying and networking with other students who have a similar passion for your chosen course. Continued focus is also a large requirement.

·         To find your first (or next) MOOC, please click here.
·         To access Dave Cormier’s video (4 min 17 sec duration) where he explains his five steps for success, please click here.


Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi

Monday, September 4, 2017

Some Useful Tips to Ensure Greater Success For MOOC Students:


Potential employees can get their dream job through MOOCs(1) :
·         Employers are looking for the skills in an employee that are taught by MOOCs;
·         If you can demonstrate some skills (in business, finance, statistics, computer science – e.g., ability to use certain software, etc.), some employers will be happy to hire you and don’t care where you learned the skills or whether you received a piece of paper for learning these skills; and
·         MOOCs are being taught by professors from high quality institutions (e.g., Stanford, and Princeton), so there should be no doubt that MOOCs are receiving high quality instruction.

The previous posting identified some MOOC websites and courses that will serve the need of various interest groups.  Nevertheless, MOOC students face some special challenges.  This post aims to provide some tips to help MOOC students successfully complete their courses. This post will  address the issue of a low successful completion rate by MOOC students, which has been generally regarded as being about only 4-6%.

MOOC students can implement tips below if they are ready to implement them, and then use the others tips when ready to do so.  Nevertheless, students should try and implement foundational tips as early as possible.  Please click on the corresponding reference if you need more details on any of the given tips.


A: Five (5) Study Tips for MOOC Students(2)
1.       Schedule time for your MOOCs;
2.       Participate in the Learning Community;
3.       Practice your computer literacy;
4.       Study at a desk or table, rather than in bed; and
5.       Don’t take more courses than you can manage.

B: Six (6) Tips for Managing a Full MOOC Course-Load(3)
1.       Tell others (colleagues, fellow students, friends, teachers and parents) what you are learning.  Most people do not know what a MOOC is and might wonder what you are  doing;
2.       Get a buddy for each course.  Knowing someone else studying the same course can motivate you;
3.       Play videos 1.25x to 2.00x to save you time viewing lectures;
4.       Balance your course load with your other activities;
5.       Put the skills you learned (instead of your individual courses) on your resume; and
6.       Keep all assignments you submitted  on your local computer.  After submitting, make a copy in a text file or any other format.  This allows you to develop a portfolio which you can use later to show off your work.

C: Twenty-five (25) Tips for a Better MOOC Experience(4)
1.       Get connected.  (Find at least one other person to keep you connected to the course);
2.       Introduce yourself and share ways to connect. (Be sure that you are easy to find if your fellow student would like to connect with you.  Share your social media information, and a friendly image so  your peers know how to find you);
3.       Start your own discussion.  (Post a thoughtful reply to a discussion or create your own discussion. You’ll find much more value in the course if you participate with others);
4.       Complete major projects. (Take part in all of the major projects along with the class);
5.       Offer assistance to others. (As you help your peers, you are likely to learn something yourself);
6.       Don’t get overwhelmed. (There will be lots of posts to your course groups, however, you don’t have to read every single thing. Get a daily digest of posts and scan through it for interesting conversations that you’d like to take part in);
7.       Don’t be overwhelming. (Be concise in your discussions, questions, and answers);
8.       Use descriptive titles. (This is a great way to quickly enable others to understand what you are getting at);                                                                                                                                                              
9.       Create your own content. (Share videos, concept maps, etc. with classmates. This is possible when you understand course content and have reflections of your own);
10.   Ask questions. (Speak up if you have a question or a comment to spark discussion);
11.   Join sub-groups. (Especially sub-groups where you can share aspects of the course that are really important to you);
12.   Set up your own blog. (A blog is a great place to collect and share your own thoughts on a course);
13.   Get on twitter. (Chances are good that plenty of MOOC discussions will be happening on Twitter. Be sure to create an account and find out what the course hashtag is);
14.   Create your own archive. (With tools like “Scoop,” you can create an archive of all the great resources you’ve found in your MOOC);
15.   Designate an email address. (Create a dedicated email address that you use only for MOOC learning or set up filters to keep posts out of your inbox. Otherwise, you can  get overwhelmed quickly );
16.   Set up a Yahoo! Pipe. (This is a great way to stay on top of MOOC post aggregation. You can bring in RSS, Google Groups, even Twitter and Flickr);
17.   Plan what you want to receive out of the MOOC. (Have a clear idea of what you want to receive out of your MOOC before you begin. Do you want to just follow along?  Get credit? Or …?);
18.   Get oriented early. (As early as possible, determine where and when everything is, so you don’t get left behind. Find everything important for the course,such as: a) course materials, b) important links, c)  sessions times , etc …);
19.   Stay On Schedule. (Decide what courses you would like to participate in and then schedule a time to do just that);
20.   Make a commitment to yourself. (Then stay committed, and stay active in order to avoid letting things slip away);
21.   Get a certificate. (If you are going to do the work, why not get credit for it?);
22.   Find a job. (Star  MOOCs performers could be snapped up by dot-coms in need of star talent);
23.   Use your MOOC experience to get college credits. (You can use MOOC in your prior learning portfolio to get actual college credits);
24.   Be persistent. (MOOCs are an educational marathon.  Don’t give up before you have crossed the finish line); and
25.   Don’t be afraid to take time off.  (If you need a break, take a little time off to relax and then begin again).

D: Addressing Procrastination
·         Procrastination can be a major issue with MOOC students because they don’t have in-person professors to continually encourage and guide them;
·         To avoid procrastination, students should develop a study plan and stick with their plan;
·         However, recent research(5) indicate that procrastination could be a form of self-defeating behavior. This happens when the students are trying to protect themselves from the negative emotions they  feel if they fail at an academic task. In this situation, students need to realize that:
o   They (students) have far greater control over their academic success than they think; and
o   They can confront their own fears, and need to practice having a growth mindset (which believes that skill and academic strength can be developed through effort and practice).

·         There are certainly a lot of useful tips out there that MOOC students could use to guide them in their study.

·         To identify your first (or next) MOOC, please click here.


Posted by: Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Some direction on interesting MOOC Websites and Courses for various interest groups


MOOCs: Some Descriptions1
·         An MOOC (massive, open, online, courses)  is similar to a course given at a prestigious university. The similarities include lectures, a syllabus, assignments, exams and a start and end date. The difference is the student can learn from their own home at no cost;
·         MOOCs are revolutionary because they are often taught by renowned professors from famous universities such as, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and they're provided at no cost;
·         With MOOCs, students pay no tuition to take classes that would normally cost thousands of dollars;
·         A MOOC is:
o   Massive: Large amounts of information are being shared with a large number of people;
o   Open: The information is available to anyone;
o   Online: The course is accessible via the Internet; and
o   Course: It is a class on a specific topic taught by a professor, complete with a syllabus and lesson plans.

Objectives: The objectives of this posting are:
·         To define/describe MOOCs for those newly joining us, and;
·         To provide some guidance on MOOC websites and courses that will serve the need of various interest groups.

If you find something interesting in this posting, note the Reference Number (in superscript). Then click on the corresponding link under REFERENCES below to obtain more details. This posting concludes with a hint of what to expect in the next posting.


For High-School Students2
·         The best MOOC for high school students is KhanAcademy 
·         KhanAcademy has hundreds of short, easy-to-understand lessons at the high school level. Some of the many subjects covered include math, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, economics, history, civics and test prep for the SAT, GMAT and California Standards Test.

For Rigorous College-Level Courses2
·         Not all MOOCs are designed to simulate real college courses with homework, exams and timetables for completion;
·         The MOOCs at Coursera are taught by renowned professors at world-famous universities.  These courses are made to be as difficult as a real college course;
·         Courses are usually offered at no cost, but they have an enrollment date, a recommended workload  to fill a certain number of hours per week, and a series of exams and assignments to complete. There are no grades, but students who successfully finish the course receive a certificate from the instructor.

For People on the Go (i.e. People who Travel a Lot) 2
·         Don’t be tied down by your computer or your classroom. With iTunes U, you can find lectures and lessons from hundreds of colleges and universities and then download them straight to an iPhone, iPod or iPad with the iTunes U app;
·         Best of all, it’s completely native to iTunes. If you have an iTunes account then you have all you need to get started.

For People Interested in the Humanities2
·         There isn’t a specific MOOC website for students interested in the Humanities, but there are lots of options. Coursera has a wide selection of choices on several topics;
·         For students who just want to expand their minds by watching lectures without submitting to the rigors of a real college class, Open Yale Courses is an excellent resource of classes that cover many subjects.  Open Yale Courses was selected as one of Time Magazine’s Top 50 Websites of 2011.

For People Interested in Computer Science2
·         Without question, the best MOOC for students interested in computer science is Udacity. Udacity has courses for every level of student.  They also allow you to take those courses at your leisure and they are completely dedicated to computer science;
·         If you’ve exhausted your resources over at Udacity, be sure to check out EdX.org or the computer science section at Coursera.

For People Interested in Hobbies2
·         Do you want to learn how to knit socks, practice yoga and play the electric guitar? Udemy is the MOOC website for you;
·         Udemy’s format is a little different than all the other MOOCs out there. Anyone can create his or her own course on any topic for the whole world to study.

MOOCs For Engineering Students

Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering3
·         Anyone interested in exploring technology will fit right into this course offered by Rice University through Coursera.org. The course discusses “the creation, manipulation, transmission, and reception of information by electronic means.”  Furthermore, this course includes topics on both analog and digital signals and how we extract and change the information encoded in these signals;
·         The professor recommends knowledge of both differential and integral calculus as a prerequisite to the course.

Introduction to Engineering3
·         Due to the nature of engineering’s many applications, there aren’t many courses that act as a survey of the entire field. If you wanted to take a basic engineering class at a college or university, you typically had to pick an intro course to a specific discipline;
·         To fix this, Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering created this course as “a broad overview of what is going on in the school.” Now you don’t have to chose between chemical, mechanical, biomedical or nuclear engineering. You can learn a little bit about all of them and decide which you are most interested in pursuing.

Introduction to Chemical Engineering3
·         If you’re just getting started in college and think chemical engineering might be right for you, consider trying this introductory course taught by a professor from Stanford University;
·         In addition to engineering topics, the course also discusses applications for chemical engineering, which can be just as important in the oil industry as it is in diagnosing disease and innovating in organ donation.

Civil and Environmental Engineering3
·         This iTunesU course from the University of California, Berkeley, deals with civil engineering;
·         Civil engineering focuses on the design and construction of roads, buildings, bridges and other manmade physical structures.

Introduction to MEMS Design3
·         This MOOC, also taught through UC Berkeley, introduces a specialized topic pertaining to both electrical and mechanical engineering called MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems);
·         MEMS are the technology behind devices that generally range from the incredibly small size of 20 micrometers to one millimeter. Printers, microphones, gyroscopes, accelerometers and pressure sensors are all devices built or improved upon by MEMS.

Engineering Statics3
·         Statics refers to “the study of methods for quantifying the forces between bodies;”
·         Students who aren’t quite ready to tackle tough engineering courses, but aspire to become an engineer in the future can benefit from Carnegie Mellon’s MOOC on statics;
·         Statics is an important prerequisite for branches of engineering like mechanical, civil and bioengineering that  can be taken before getting into more specific engineering topics. It does not require any calculus and only basic physics courses are recommended as prerequisites.

MOOCs For Students Who Like Science

Introduction to Solid State Chemistry4
·         This is a first-year level course taught by a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology;
·         In this course, the student will learn about the real world applications of how chemical bonding and electronic structure relates to the field of engineering;
·         According to the professor, understanding the connection between chemistry and its applications is “the most important tool…to come up with new inventions.”

Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Computation4
·         The University of California, Berkeley, teaches this MOOC through Coursera.org.  The course requires no previous experience with quantum mechanics but still maintains a rigorous level of work;
·         Quantum mechanics is one of those courses that sounds intimidating, students either love it or cringe at it;
·         Topics covered in this course include the fundamentals of quantum algorithms and the building blocks of quantum computers.  This is a cross-disciplinary class that students from math, physics and computer science will find engaging and challenging.

The Atmosphere, the Ocean, and Environmental Change4
·         For those interested in environmental science, Open Yale Courses from Yale University has a course on the processes that control the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and climates;
·         The course topics include: storms, ocean currents, seasons, atmospheric conditions and global warming;
·         The course discusses “the physics in how the atmosphere and the oceans move.”

Autism and Related Disorders4
·         For any science major interested in learning more about the autism spectrum and related disorders that affect human socialization this course is for you. This MOOC is taught through iTunes U with Yale University  and is a seminar course that covers diagnosis, assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with autism;
·         Each lecture is given by a different medical professional, so students are open to a variety of opinions and research.

Exploring Black Holes: General Relativity & Astrophysics4
·         MIT’s OpenCourseWare has selected lectures and course materials and uses the study of black holes and how they affect the physical world around them to teach concepts in general relativity, astrophysics and cosmology;
·         This class discusses well-known physics concepts, but gets into very theoretical territory. The professor even suggests, “You might be able to use certain black holes to travel to another universe.”

This posting has presented a summary of what's available in the MOOC world to generate awareness and interest regarding MOOCs.   What has not been mentioned, is how MOOC students need a higher level of self-motivation compared to "regular" campus-students, in order to succeed in their study. For this reason, the next posting will focus on tips and advice to assist MOOC students in successfully completing their courses.

To search for your first or next MOOC from a list of over 7,600 courses arranged under 13 subject areas, please click here.


Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi

Saturday, August 12, 2017

ARE MOOCs STILL FREE OF CHARGE? The key issues and how to address them


Many are wondering whether MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are still free of charge.  This curiosity comes from some of the headlines we have recently seen. Including:
·         Top MOOC provider edX no longer free for all1 
·         MOOCs still open but no longer free - The Australian2   
·         Free MOOCs? Forget about it3  
·         Is Coursera individual classes no longer free? – reddit4  
·         Are Coursera courses not free any more?5   
·         Massive Open Online Courses used to be 100% free. But they didn’t stay that way6 and
·         The Golden Age of MOOCs is over and Why I hate Coursera7  


Dhawal Shah, the Founder of www.class-central.com (claiming to be the most popular online course search engine) explains what is happening.  In 2011 he took one of the first MOOCs  and remembered that back then, everything was 100% free of charge.  The videos, the assignments, and the certificates. However, he pointed out that  in 2017,  a student cannot find this sort of free learning experience.

He explained that as MOOC providers searched for a favorable business model, they started putting certain aspects of the MOOC experience behind a paywall. As a result, MOOCs went from “free” to “free to audit” where students auditing courses have access to course videos and other materials but not the assignments and certificates.

Free certificates were the first items to be shifted from “free of charge” to “charged.”  Then the graded assignments were put behind paywalls.  Now all the major MOOC providers are making courses that are charging student, with even video lectures locked away behind paywalls.  However, this does not mean that all their courses need to be purchased. 


Shah explained that the situation with the four biggest MOOC providers is as follows:

Current Situation at EdX6 
·         Still offering graded assignments free of charge;
·         Offers certain courses (which they call Professional Education) at a cost.  These typically cost hundreds of dollars;
·         Apart from Professional Education, all the edX courses are completely complimentary, and students only need to purchase the course if they want to receive a certificate.

Current Situation at Coursera6    
·         Certificates and graded assignments are not free of charge;
·         For students who want to access course videos at no charge, they need to find and click on a tiny “audit” link (which has been designed intentional to be difficult to locate);
·          Courses that are not part of a series (specialization) will sometimes have the option to sign up for an audit mode.  In these cases, graded assignments are of no charge to participate, but students still do not have access to free of charge certificates;
·         Cousera had a liberal financial-aid policy for a long time. It now takes them at least 15 days to respond to financial aid applications.

Current Situation at FutureLearn6   
·         Students have access to course materials at no charge(articles/ videos/ peer review steps) but this special is only available for the duration of the course and two weeks after it ends.  For unlimited access to the course materials, students are required  to upgrade for a costs of $30 to $90;
·         However, all students (complimentary and upgrades) still have access to quizzes and assignments;
·         Only the upgrades have access to tests, and a Certificate of Achievement when students complete their course.

Current Situation at Udacity6 
Udacity offers “nanodegrees” which can take months to finish, and they usually consist of online courses, human-graded projects, and some mentorship.
·         The courses that are part of Nanodegree could usually be taken free of charge;
·         However, getting the certificate requires payment.


The Key Issues

In my readings in preparation for this posting, I find two main issues behind the trend to reduce free service offerings: 1) the need for economic survival, and 2) greed.  The need for economic survival is understandable, since offering of top quality courses to interested learners from around the world cannot be achieved with no or little financial backing. This has resulted in marriages of convenience between the technologists, educationists, and visionaries on one hand with the global corporate elite on the other. Someeg:7 argue that, of late, we have been seeing MOOC providers caring less about the students and more about the money.

The Solution

Firstly, it should be pointed out that, there are still a lot of positives out there.  For those interested in learning a subject, there are still many MOOCs topics that can be studied at no charge.  As it maybe true that it is made very difficult to find Cousera’s tiny “audit” button, and some may not know that “audit” means you are able to take the course at no cost, and it may take two weeks to get a response to a query regarding the need for financial assistance.  However, there are still some great opportunities out there.

In addition, we should try and:
·         involve more people who care more about students  and less about the money,
·         encourage searches for win-win models of service operations (rather than searching for purely alternative business models), and
·         promote in-person, on-line, and dual-mode mentoring/ tutoring/ coaching.

An Example: The McVay Youth Partnership at Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota8

This example is from Education but not specifically on MOOC.  However, it is cited here because it employs all three elements mentioned above , it involves people who care more about students and less about the money; it involves a search (which lasted two years) to find a workable win-win model of operation, and it involves mentoring.

The McVay Youth Partnership at Hamline University offers paid leadership opportunities for students, who then mentor middle- and high-schoolers. The program was endowed by Pete and Mary McVay.  In a similar manner, people who care about students could volunteer or be requested to endow a program where tutors/mentors/coaches provide assistance to students doing MOOCs. This was especially  important to those from underprivileged backgrounds.  This approach will also help address what has been referred to (rightly or wrongly) as the greatest challenge for MOOCs which is the very low completion rate of only 4-6%.9    

It was reported10 in 2013, according to Coursera, more than 900 students have finished 10 or more Coursera MOOCs.  Today, some 4-5 years later, there should be quite a number of MOOCs experts out there who have taken five or more MOOCs from Cousera or other platforms. hopefully they are willing to be involved in sharing their MOOCs knowledge and expertise through tutoring.


To find free online courses and MOOCs, please click here



Posted by: Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi