I’m enrolled in two MOOCs–massive open online courses–offered through Coursera. Appropriately enough both are about online learning. Over the next six weeks, I’ll be offering my views about both classes and MOOCs in general.

E-Learning and Digital Cultures. is a four week course run by the University of Edinburgh. For the most part, this is a philosophy course concerned with Good the pros and cons of technology. The course is divided into two two-week blocks. Each week we are to watch a series of videos related to the overall topic and discuss them through various social media channels.  The final project will be to create some type of digital presentation (“artifact”) and post it online.

The remaining authors/instructors clearly put a lot of thought into how to deal with 40,000+ (no typo) students. The Twitter hashtag, Google+ and Facebook pages were all up and active immediately. There are no lectures, instead all of the resources are posted on the Coursera site and students are encouraged to discuss them in the course forum and various social media. So, there is little Website actual interaction with the instructors, though some are posting on Twitter and they have planned a G+ hangout (which soul unfortunately will be at 2 am here.). While I think Owies they are on the right track here, as most of learning in online courses occurs in peer-to-peer interaction, it has proven to be unwieldy with this number of students. The Twitter hashtag feed goes by very quickly even on TweetDeck, though I have still found some nice linkss and had some brief but engaging discussions on Twitter. Students are also encouraged to blog (me, too) and deciding which blogs to follow is difficult. The EDCMOOC aggregate blog to which I will submit the RSS feed for this blog, is a good idea, but I suspect it will be overwhelmed in due time as more students add their feeds.

The solution seems to be for the class to self-sort itself into more manageable groups, though it’s not clear to me yet how best to do this. One intrepid student has started a Wikispaces site. But these ad hoc groups are likely to be overpopulated as there aren’t enough of them. As we’ll see in my post about the other class (link here), their attempt to solve this problem has been nothing short of a disaster. To my mind this it the number one problem that needs to be solved in MOOC course design.

As all of the materials are posted online already, it seems we can complete the course at our own pace. There really is no continuous assessment and the final project is peer reviewed. We’ll see how that works! So the amount of work actually required is quite limited and really is up to the individual students. Fortunately, this seems to be a very motivated group out of the gates, so I expect it will be quite interesting. The subject is fun and has a lot of people thinking and talking, but the content is rather superficial. It reminds me of a course I took as an undergrad on the works of Evelyn Waugh. That was fun, too and I’m glad I took it, but in the end I didn’t walk away with all that much.

A final thought: The one striking thing about this class, which no one has mentioned AFAIK is that while the final project is to create a “digital artifact”, there doesn’t appear to be any instruction on how to do that. Ok by me, but I wonder how many students will find that daunting.