A reflection on week 1 - confusing, exciting and demanding to encouraging, inspiring and hardworking

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Fawei Geng
18 January 2013

This is my second MOOC experience.  The first one was a 8-week Udacity (http://www.udacity.com/) course last year.   Although I had worked through the video lectures and exercises, I had to give up after a few weeks.  The main reason was that I had little interactions with other students and the tutors on the course.  That might be caused by different time zones.

I signed up the oldsmooc because that the course tutors were in the UK and I met some of them.  The main objective was to see how the course tutors can motivate students on the course.  After one week, I feel that this is more like a MOOC course.  Although there is no way to see a list of all participants ( It’d be good if it were possible), I still can feel that a great number of course mates out there by looking at the messages, clouds, and tweets.

Confusing, exciting and demanding

Looking back week 1, initially I was excited and confused - http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/7038.

Like many participants on the course, the topic was a relatively new one as I had not systematically studied ‘learning design’.  This is an area that I have heard of and been keen to explore.  I was enthusiastic about the course.   After a quick scan of the course outline and introduction, I also realised that it was a pretty demanding courses (3-10 hours per week) which I had to find on top of my full time job.   

Due to my experience of giving up the Udacity course, from the beginning I was determined to keep up with the course and not to be left behind in order to have conversations with people on the course.   A few critical tasks in the first two days were to set up my profile and project in Cloudworks, and then introduced my project to people on the course via a Google open discussion forum.   The reason that they were critical was that these would decide whether I could attract people to team up with and study collaboratively for the next 4 weeks.   With little time on my hands  and being new to Cloudworks, it was quite stressful that I had to familiarise myself with Cloudworks and scan a great number of uncategorised messages.  In addition,  I discovered that conversations did not only happen via Google discussion, but also in Cloudworks, Twitter, etc.   This made me feel rather confused after the initial excitement of joining the course.

With the third day of week 1 approaching, I had not formed a team with anyone.  The posts and messages that I created did not seem drawing anyone’s attention either.  My enthusiasm seemed diminishing. That was my lowest point of the week.  At that point, I even thought about giving up this course.   I was asking myself: ¨Why do I have to do this course? No credit and  qualification will be given, and nobody has asked me to do it¨.

The turning point

After one good night’s sleep, I decided to carry on.  I realised that this was a course I wanted to study.  Therefore, I did not need any external motivations such as qualification or credit.  I wanted to see how my intrinsic motivation could affect my learning experience. I wrote a short blog post explaining how to maximize the benefit when studying a MOOC.

Once I felt positive about the course, I dived into the messages and projects again.  The more I read, the more I realised that I was not alone. For instance, people commented in Couldworks about their difficulty in learning a new system.  People also commented on their frustration with finding team mates.  Note: I think that Couldworks is a really good system. I guess that the stress was caused by people having to digest new information about ‘learning design’ and to learn the system at the same time.

While brwosing through the Google forum, a topic ¨Bowing out with olds¨drew my attention.  After reading the message, I could not help replying to Phil’s message to share my experience and encourage him to carry on.   I mentioned in my message that although it was difficult to read/participate everything in this massive course, the nature of a MOOC did offer great opportunities to learn from and collaborate with people that you might not find in a traditional online course.   

Encouraging, inspiring and hardworking   

Luckily the situation started becoming positive.  People began commenting on my project page with a strong interest (http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/7321). I teamed up with a few people who were also interested in staff development, peer support and collaborative learning (the team cloud: http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloudscape/view/2782).   

Interacting with Penny Wheeler, one of the team members, inspired me to develop my project further.  I originally thought to create an online space to collect successful stories of using learning technologies from Oxford’s staff and support them to help each other.  When Penny asked if her project could be added to my list, I thought it might be a good idea to create a platform to gather stories internationally.  This made me more excited about the project and course.

The positive experience and interactions made me proactively set up a Google circle and Google group for the team.  What’s more, my message replying to  ‘Bowing out with olds’ drew attention from one of the course tutors -Joshua Underwood.  Josh commented on my message and shared his view on the designing aspect of this MOOC course.

To sum up, it has been a dynamic week for me.  Now I feel encouraged and inspired thanks to all people who have interacted with me on the course.  I know that hard work is still ahead as so far I have not been able to spend time on reading about ‘learning design’.  However, the experience and interactions are a vital part of the understanding of ‘learning design’.  

Finally I would like to say: ¨Let’s keep the conversations going, happy sharing and happy MOOC¨.

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