The Final Assessment #EDCMOOC

Quick reminder: I’m using the EDC MOOC as part of a longer, onground college class. I have been writing about how my students are responding to the MOOC.

Today, we went over the Final Assessment for the MOOC. We looked at Hamish’s introductory video, read the “What You Need To Do” section, and looked at a few of the samples from the previous runs of the EDC MOOC to begin to generate ideas.

They were intimidated.

I think their feelings might have come from Hamish’s discussion of some participants saying the final assessment is too easy, and his encouraging people to look at the samples.ย  “Then tell me it’s too easy,” he is, in a sort of ominous half-whisper.

That’s mostly a joke. I don’t think Hamish’s tone is what intimidated them. I think it was seeing the samples, even just briefly. They seemed to get the sense that that they needed technical skills beyond the ones that they possess. I tried to calm their fears by discussing some of the links to the online tools on the “What You Need To Do” page, and how they might use them. (For example, with Animoto, they can create create nice looking videos. Weebly is good for posting text-based pages with embedded images or links or videos.)

It’s interesting to me that their initial reaction is to be intimidated. I talked, too, about how they can consider the final assessment as representative of what the MOOC is trying to do: get them to think about alternative ways to be educated. There’s no professor to grade their final projects; they will be graded by one another, in keeping with the cMOOC feel of the course. There’s no “paper” to write; they can think about how one can show what one has learned through something other than a traditional text-based essay. I still didn’t have the sense that they were comfortable with things, but I hope I gave them something to think about as they walk the labyrinth in their minds.

A couple of things stand out for me as I reflect in today’s class:

1) I have said it before when talking about teaching with technology: for my own students (and, I think, for many young people), they know what they know, and they know it very well. But they have no idea how much they don’t know, and when they encounter something new, they do so skittishly. I suppose this is just basic educational psychology, where we encounter something new and try to deal with it in terms of what we already know (Scheme Theory?). See a multi-modal assignment and think about it in terms of text-based assignments that are typically required of them. I think it’s one more point against the idea of “digital natives” (not that we needed more points). Their first reaction isn’t joy at being able to play around online.

2) As I’ve said before, I’m very interested in the idea of Hybrid MOOCs — using an existing MOOC to supplement or replace the content of an onground course, as I am doing with EDCMOOC. I’m especially interested in the role I would play as the teacher in such courses. I think it will change for every class, though my role in this class is rapidly taking shape. I am trying to stay in the spirit of the course, and allow them to learn from each other and other members of the MOOC, more so than from me. I have tried to make it clear that I don’t have The Answers for this MOOC. They will need to generate answers themselves, with the help of their MOOCmates. The role I am playing is Guide. I have taken MOOCs, and online classes, and I have taken and taught dozens of classes, and so I know how to approach a structured learning situation, even one as non-traditional as EDCMOOC. So the advice I have been giving is more about how to learn, where to find information, how to approach a discussion, how to break down an assignment. I think this is certainly related to #1 above — I know how to learn, and it doesn’t intimidate me, because I’ve been through enough difficult situations that I know I’ll find a solution somehow, at some point.

Which has me thinking about how much time I spend with students teaching them how to learn. It’s not easy to do, mostly because I’m almost always pressed for time with content. If I have to choose between What I want them to learn, and teaching them How to learn it, I’m going to focus on the What, and assume (or hope) that they know How. Maybe I need to rethink that from here, for all of my classes. Maybe they’ll get more What if I give them a little How.

One last thing: at the end of class, I asked them to give me a quick show of hands: How many of you would drop this MOOC if I wasn’t requiring it?

Nearly all of them raised their hand.

I’ll need to think about that one some more….

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9 Comments

  1. Really interesting point of view and really interesting idea to connect traditional teaching with MOOC. If I had been a student still I would have signed up for that kind of class!. However if I were you I would chose to teach students more about how to learn (not only what). As a former student I can say that I feel some regret that nobody paid attention to learn us how to learn, how our brain works, what are the most efficient methods of learning, how to deal with stress connected with learning etc. I am learning it on my own currently but it would have been easier for me if I would know it earlier ๐Ÿ™‚ Best of luck with your hybrid mooc ! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Thank you. It’s interesting — I’ve done a lot of metacognitive work in the past, making students aware of how they think and learn. I still do it to some extent. But EDC MOOC is so unlike what these students have ever done, they just don’t have strategies to rely on. It makes me wonder a lot about this student population, and what their expectations are for higher ed. As for teaching them how to learn, it’s still a matter of trying to fit it in to a course that is already overloaded. It would fascinating to try this hybrid MOOC in a different class.

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  2. I’m glad you’re (mostly) joking – I would not wish to come across as intimidating. :-\

    But I do think that this is *so* frequently what one finds – that people judge themselves more harshly than other people would judge them. And they judge the work of others as more impressive than the work that they believe they could achieve. In fact, I am always rather reluctant to let students see “examples” of other people’s work. Many people ask for these, as they feel that it will provide them with helpful direction. My fear is that it will constitute unhelpful constraint. This is why I would say – by all means be *impressed* by the work that others have produced, but then give what *you* want to give.

    Love the “blended MOOC” idea by the way. A great way forward, I think.

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    1. Hamish, I agree, and I am often reluctant to give examples myself in my courses. Very often, there is too much of that unhelpful constraint you mention — trying to shoehorn one’s ideas into someone else’s form. Given the courses I teach (mostly in writing), I try to get them to see the larger rhetorical purpose behind the model, and adapt that for their own work. It is not always a successful pedagogical strategy. Fear gets in the way of much rational ability.

      I’m pleased that you like the blended MOOC idea. This experience has been giving me lots of ideas for further research and teaching in that area.

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  3. I am somewhat relieved to see this post. I take this course to develop a sense of whether or not it is suitable for the course I am teaching. And my first impression also was that of intimidation (not from Hamish’s post, but from the samples that were posted). Funny enough, in my course students are also required to develop a viral buzz marketing campaign and many of them are using different tools such as animoto or instagram to develop artifacts that then are intended to go viral. So this course helped me to try the shoes, so to speak, of my students and I have more appreciation of what they are doing now.

    P.S. Not to brag, but here an example of one of the most recent artifacts:

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    1. OK, that was kind of bragging….;)
      Seriously, though, your student did a nice job.
      And to be clear — Hamish’s video didn’t really intimidate my students. I don’t think the labyrinth didn’t calm them, but it didn’t intimidate them. It was the excellent samples that did that. I think it’s because many of them don’t have experience with the programs that were suggested (though I’m sure they will figure them out easily) and my course has focused mostly on text (we haven’t done much with images and videos this semester). I’m sure that once they calm down, they’ll do a good job with the assessment. They certainly have had a lot to say about the Resources so far.
      As you suggest, one thing I have gotten out of the MOOCs I have taken (through Coursera and other providers) is that I remember what it is like to be a student again. I’ve had some anxious moments at times, but it’s a good reminder of what my students go through when I introduce new material to them. That’s important for teachers to remember. (I have a friend who does things like rock climbing and sky-diving to remind herself of the anxiety that her students feel sometimes….I think I’ll stick to MOOCs….)
      Good luck with your class.

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      1. >> I remember what it is like to be a student again.

        Great point! And a very valuable experience, I think. We should all be faced with that from time to time. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Hamish, I appreciate your comments on the Google Hangout that ended a few minutes ago. First of all, let me assure you that my comment was indeed teasing, and I was/am not just being kind to say so. (Call that ambiguity a faiulre of the technology to convey its teasing nature.) I like the labyrinth/maze distinction, and some of my students will see the difference and have a better understanding of the project because of it. I think part of their anxiety is also knowing that, while the EDC MOOC assessment is about reflection and individual goals, the project also serves as a graded assignment for my onground class (and I’m staying with that term). So while there may be some intrinsic anxiety that comes from comparing one’s work to another’s, it’s their knowing that they will get a grade that is causing most of their stress.
    I suppose that’s another issue to consider in a blended MOOC. I plan to write a blog post in the next few days on blended MOOCs, and how this experience is shaping my ideas about them. And I’d be happy to extend that conversation with you after our five weeks have finished.

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  5. Yes, the stakes are clearly raised for your students as compared with the general run of participants who will submit an assignment for peer feedback on the MOOC. Which changes things, of course. Number of thoughts. First of all, I wonder if you have tried “uncoupling” the business of the grades that you finally give students from the feedback that you give them? Ultimately, there will be a grade. But there is evidence that students process and use their feedback more fully and profitably if they have sight of teachers comments *before* they receive notification of the grade. Then you can do more elaborate things such as giving the grade not for the original submission, but (all, or in part) for the way in which they respond to that feedback. Feedback isn’t feedback unless it is responded to in some way, and sometimes one has to take steps to provoke and scaffold that response.

    To be a bit radical for a moment, I continue to feel that the act of grading is antagonistic to good teaching and learning. I guess that we were stuck with it, but can try to find ways to de-emphasise it. It introduces a damaging power imbalance, and risks vitiating much of what we are trying to do in cultivating relationships with our students.

    And I really like the notion / term of the “onground class” – go with it!

    Gentle teasing is good. ๐Ÿ™‚ I remember thinking that one of my primary school teachers – who I really feared, as was the way in most Scottish primary schools of the day – had come to accept me as a real human being when she did me the courtesy of pushing me into the swimming pool. Not something that a teacher can do in these more enlightened times sadly.

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