What makes a good MOOC

I have been a fan and follower of MOOCs since their recent inception. Now I am aware that they are very much in their infancy but I have now done quite a few to be able to see what are the failings and successes in the MOOCs that I have taken.

Let me start with what I consider to be the two stand-out MOOCs:

(1) Coursera “Social Psychology” (2014)

This course was excellent from beginning to end. It had a great deal of free resources that, as Professor Plious states in the introductory video would have been expensive to purchase and difficult to aggregate.

It did not make the mistake that so many other MOOCs do of lecturing to you and then giving you a test. It showed films, interviews and most importantly interacted with the study resources.

As a person who did not have a background in psychology I was pleased with the lack of technical terms or the assumption that I had a lot of previous learning. MOOCs after all are open to everyone regardless of their academic background and it cannot be assumed that they are aware of the “buzz words” of any particular discipline.

The best MOOCs therefore assume that you are interested and keen to learn. They keep it non-technical and get you involved. They use, as this course did, multi-media resources and they provide you with a variety of multi-media material to further your study.

Lastly, I have  to say something about the personality of Scott Plious the course presenter. He was affable and extremely enthusiastic about his subject. He did not speak down to you but spoke with you in welcoming you into his world. So many of the MOOCs I have taken have been delivered by dry-as-dust lecturers who seem to think that the subject matter alone will suffice. They reminded me of the many times that I nearly fell asleep when I have been subjected to boring individuals drolling on about subjects that are actually fascinating but which they manage to make sound like the reading of tax return statistics!

2. Coursera: Learning How To Learn



Yes, another Coursera course. Maybe this says something about the approach that Coursera have taken to their MOOCs. Make them interesting, remember that it is so easy to just switch off and leave. Keep them hooked!

This course certainly keeps you hooked in fact it was so good that I have signed up for a second time! But don’t take my word for it, watch this video of a student of the course extolling its virtues.

Again, as with Scott Plious and the Social Psychology course it is the enthusiasm of its presenters, Barbara Oakley and Terrence Sejnowski who make the MOOC for me.

This MOOC has become the most followed MOOC ofthem all so far. It combines a lot of good lectures, discussions and most importantly student interactivity with good resources.

Barbara has  taken it a step further. Every Friday I receive an e-mail called “Cheery Friday Greetings” from LHTL. There are always reminders of good study techniques and links to great books and articles. This is truly a course that grabs you and keeps you involved.

In conclusion therefore I would say that a good MOOC has to be interesting, multimedia, have availability to good resources, allow interactivity of students and ideally set up online communities that allow for the discussion to continue.

The key to it all is summed up in the following:





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