Success in MOOCs – Step 1 – Orientation

This post is part of a series that expands on Dave Cormier’s Youtube video “Success in a MOOC” and applies his advice to the upcoming Mechanical MOOC about the Python programming language.  Cormier breaks down online learning success into five steps: Orient, Declare, Network, Cluster and Focus.  Look for the next installment tomorrow morning!

Walking To School

What’s in your digital backpack?

Remember the first day of school when you were growing up? You probably had a backpack full of brand-new notebooks and freshly-sharpened number-2 pencils. When Cormier says to orient yourself, he is telling you to get your digital backpack ready. (Sadly, it won’t have that new-box-of-crayons smell.) A little preliminary groundwork will help you focus on the content once the course starts.

In order to orient yourself, ask the following questions.

Do you know how and where to access the course materials? Are there any course readings or software that you’ll need to download? Some course management systems have mobile apps that might help you keep up with the material.  Programming courses may require you to download an IDE and statistics courses may require you have certain software packages installed on your computer.  If you have a mobile device or e-reader, you might check to see if the course materials can be converted into a compatible format.

Do you need to set up an account on the course website or on Twitter? Do you need to have your own website or blog to participate?  What are the terms and conditions (the fine print) of the platform or platforms the MOOC uses?  For example, is there an honor code?

If you don’t have a computer or internet access and are planning to access the MOOC from a public library, community center or neighbor’s house, this is the time to check with a system administrator or the computer’s owner about schedule and software availability.  If you can’t install required software on the computer you’ll be using, look into cloud-based alternatives that will allow you to complete the exercises in the browser.

mMOOC Orientation

Though the course doesn’t start for a couple of weeks, the Mechanical MOOC has been sending out emails to help orient registered students to the course materials, which will draw from several sources.  Micah Altman calls it a “mashup MOOC” and MIT’s Steve Carson calls it an “unplatform.”  I offer my own exploration of each of these in the following posts.

photo credit: Elizabeth/Table4Five via photopin cc


About Claudia Scholz

Higher education professional in Atlanta, GA specializing in faculty development and research administration.
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