A post in the Blog The Corridor of Uncertainty about forum participation in MOOCs – Glocal MOOCs – leads to a few comments. Alastair states the following:
«Simply providing a space to comment leads to either complete silence or streams of unconnected random comments ranging from supportive to abusive and distasteful»
I understand his viewpoint but I don’t quite agree. With the big numbers of participants in a MOOC, there’s always a number of people posting on the topic or eventually, directed questions that are raised by tutors.
It’s true that the amount of posts may turn their reading time consuming and to a certain point a little bit unconnected because people may be posting with delay on other previous topics. I usually subscribe to the forums and get a daily bunch of posts that may respect to the last topic and a few to previous topics. However, It’s up to each participant to skip those posts if one finds them out of time.
As for comments to be «abusive and distasteful» I have never faced such situation and I have participated in over 20 MOOCs so far. I may not agree with certain viewpoints and may counter argument (and vice-versa) but discussions tend to be very civilized and not particularly controversial.
Probably, this civil aspect prevails because MOOC participants have a higher degree of education and their predisposition is to share and discuss within a community with common interests.
We know that the majority of people who enrol don’t actually turn active. Some do it just to observe, some may have good intentions but turns out they have no time due to personal/professional pressure, some may get intimidated with the posting of others and feel they have not much to offer or are not willing to do the effort to write something meaningful… because it takes time to elaborate a more articulate post…
«What we’re all searching for is a way to combine scale with intimacy. Can we design glocal MOOCs combining the advantages of education at scale with a sense of community and small group discussion? What sort of scaffolding and forum management can be provided without significant expense. Could local actors like further education colleges and libraries be involved in creating a local context to global courses? I’m sure it’s possible but it will require opening up the MOOC concept outside the confines of the host university or consortium. Universities can’t provide all the support themselves so why not open up the concept and allow others to contribute? MOOCs need an open API so that other actors can build support services, offer local variations, translate content and so on. Then maybe we can see open education really taking off.»
I suppose that the nature of MOOCs are that they are «massive». Some MOOCs have organized smaller communities and discussions by language (e.g. Moodle MOOC, HandsonICT…), which it seems a good alternative. Many people who enrol in MOOCs, most in english, have other mother languages, which turns to be an extra effort to cope with english. As for the moderation of forums I can see some advantage if more questions around the topic may be raised by tutors/facilitators, but I think that the discussion shouldn’t be manipulated with the interference of the organizers, it will depend on the type of guidance…
I suppose that the effort must be put in more MOOCs offer in different languages other than english, because the mastering of a language makes the difference in the participation of discussions.
I also think that other type of activities, beyond discussions, should be introduced, because many people may prefer to participate with artifacts and other modes of expressing themselves.