Week 1 – orientation

The first week of #flble1 is almost over and I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect about how it has worked for me as an orientation week.  Having participated in several moocs and being a fairly active user on Twitter, I consider myself to be fairly up to speed with getting the most out of this type of course.  Yet, I found the first week of this mooc quite difficult to get to grips with. This wasn’t to do with the content which has been excellent, but more to do with the futurelearn platform itself.   Orientation weeks or tasks are so important in encouraging learners to engage with online courses, so I think it is worth spending some time thinking about how this one hasn’t worked so well for me, and think about how it could be improved with a nod to two other moocs I have participated in.

On first sight, the futurelearn platform looks good and seemed like it would be easy to use.  As shown in this video the courses are clearly structured; users can easily track their progress and navigate around while working through the course.   However, the problems arise when users try to connect with each other, something which I consider to be an essential aspect of learning online successfully. Over 9,000 people have enrolled on this course, and the comments sections are very active. This is testament to the popularity of this course but I think the huge stream of conversations may overwhelm users.  I certainly found it difficult to filter the comments to find conversations I wanted to be involved in, and people to follow. So what did other moocs do better?

  • Etmooc used the Ning platform for the forums.  Ning uses filtering options like this one for most popular posts which enabled users to find content easily.  Would simple filters like this be useful on the futurelearn platform?
  • In both ETmooc and EPcop the facilitators strongly suggested that all users created a blog space. This is a tricky one – could it be a further barrier for users who don’t blog?  However, in an online course, particularly a mooc and furthermore one for educators could having a blog be considered essential? Steve Wheeler thinks so.
  • Most of the connecting in ETmooc happened in Twitter, and 2 years later the conversations are still happening!  As Alec Couros said, “Twitter has become an essential tool for networking opportunities and just-in-time learning.” The hashtag #fble1 is being used, however there don’t seem many #fble1 tweeters around yet, other than those tweeting the link to the course itself. (There are others of course, you know who you are 😉) Again, I think connecting through Twitter (or Facebook) should be encouraged more so that users get the most out of the experience. This post gives some reasons why. 
  • Finally, orientation activities.  In ETmooc, Alec Couros asked us to introduce ourselves by creating an introductory post, video, podcast, slideshow, etc., of yourself”.  This was daunting but a great idea for finding out about others on the course.  Mine was a bit weak, others were truly inspirational.  (I’m trying to find Amy’s)

Although this post may seem to be a bit negative, it is certainly not intended to be.   This article illustrates the powerful sense of community that can be achieved by participating in an online course and I look forward to continuing to connect in the forthcoming weeks of #flble1.

Coming soon, what I like about the course and there is a lot 😄


2 thoughts on “Week 1 – orientation

  1. Thanks for your comments, Mark. One of the reasons for participating in this mooc is to look at the design elements from the point of a learner – ease of use, problems encountered, etc. so that I can think of them when designing blended learning modules. So expect more critiques.

    As an example of the difficulty of interacting within futurelearn – I am not sure how I would find you on there! We have connected up on Twitter though, so all is good.

    Ps. Just saw my sister off back to New Zealand last week. She and her husband have been over here to watch the rugby, and see the family. I’m not too sure which was the more important ;). The All Blacks did well, eh?

  2. Hi Deborah. I’m just getting started on the Blended Learning MOOC. Like you. I have completed a few. It’s interesting to see what tools are used and how (and where) communication between participants happens. I expected the hashtag for the course to feature more centrally. “#flbl1” is hard to remember and isn’t self explanatory for people who happen across it on Twitter. I find the forums are often very hard to navigate (like a suburb full of cul-de-sacs). I usually go straight to Twitter and see who’s using the hashtag there. Also, Twitter takes it out to the stweet, which is where more public conversations happen. You’ve included some good links in this post, which I will follow. Thanks. I’ll look out for you on Twitter.

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