Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Erlang MOOC pilot, day 3

We’re at day 3 of our MOOC pilot on functional programming in Erlang: so how are things going?

MOOCs aren’t synchronous, and so people can begin and progress in their own time. So far half of those who signed up in advance have started to use the MOOC, and half of them have progressed a good way through the first week’s material. We have people taking an active part from (in no particular order) the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, the USA, Mexico, Denmark, Italy, France, Argentina, Chile, Japan, the Czech republic, New Zealand, China, Canada, the UK amongst others.

We’re also finding our way in working out the best ways of interacting. Our forums are split “by activity” and while this keeps each one on topic, it leaves no space for general discussions, so we’ve added a “common room” for those discussions. We also wanted to share with everyone some of the responses to points being made in the feedback form, so we have added a (growing) FAQ page to hold those questions and answers. Luckily we’re able to sort quite a few things out, but some others – like making videos downloadable – are going to take more time, and internal university discussions, to resolve.

We’re also beginning to see discussion and feedback on programming homework assignments. Part of the MOOC ethos is to involve everyone in giving feedback about others’ work and problems, so we have a fully meshed network rather than spoke to hub with the Kent staff providing feedback and so on. It’s still early days, but discussions are beginning. We also had a request for acceptance tests for the homeworks, but again for the purposes of the trial we’re encouraging participants themselves to develop and share these too. We might come back to this as the pilot progresses …

So far Moodle seems to be coping … there would be clear advantages to going with a fully-featured MOOC platform, such as providing transcripts of the videos for accessibility reasons, but Moodle seems to be managing so far. We’re also able to see how people are progressing in quite some detail, so there will be number crunching going on over the course of the pilot, and hopefully some useful data analysis as an outcome.

Monday, coincidentally, we were part of a tea party to celebrate the Beacon Projects at Kent, and as part of that we got a lot of encouragement and interest in what we’re doing. It can only help with developing a case to argue to the university about the multi-faceted value of MOOCs, online lectures and blended learning to our staff, students and public reach.

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