I decided to take a course with edX provided by Harvard University. I have already done a free course through Coursera provided by Stanford University and I really liked it. So this time my expectations were definitely high. I love this new format universities are using. It’s free and open to everyone. You get a certificate of attendance and you learn all kinds of things by choice… isn’t that nice!
Boy, was I disappointed!?!? Recordings of lectures that went on and on and on. If I wanted to watch a movie, I’d rent one. The first recording was 65 minutes long and the second was 63 minutes. The professor was lecturing a room full of approximately 450 students and someone filmed it. Then they uploaded these lectures online and Voila! – free online course. The titles of these videos should have given it away – Lecture 1 and Lecture 1, continued. Two hours of lecturing? Come on! Really? I mean I do appreciate Harvard opening their door to one their courses and making it available to everyone, but does it really have to be that boring? I didn’t want to “watch” it for free let alone pay for it.
I thought we were moving away from the lecture format. I thought that providing a course through this rich online format, there will be a bit more … richness to it. The first course I took by Stanford also had videos but they were short and full of demonstrations. After the videos you got to try everything they talked about. The instructor was prepared to record the videos for an online audience. And the course had a good flow. Harvard on the other hand recorded someone walking back and forth in front of a room full of students, demonstrating something on a big screen every once in a while and the flow was very heavy, dragging on and on as people in the audience had questions and comments (which couldn’t be heard in the video by the way).
So here is my (personal) assessment of this course:
… are boring. It’s common sense now. It is the 21st century, not the 19th or even 20th.
… was not considered in the design of this course. Online audience is different from face-to-face audience.
… were ineffective because the audience was not considered.
3. Instructional design
… was poor to none. A self-paced online course still needs a good instructional design. You can’t make people watch 1-hour-video of a lecture and expect that they will learn something.
… was non-existent or fully passive. Including pop-up multiple choice questions while the lecture video is going does not provide proper interaction for an online audience.
UPDATE: This TED talk is directly related to my point of using outdated teaching methods in a modern world of innovation, creativity, and interaction. Daphne Koller is one of the founders of Coursera and their courses are exactly the opposite of a “lecture”. I fully enjoyed Coursera’s “Computer Science 101″ course. Thank you Robert Becker for sending me the link to this talk.