Success in MOOCs, step 2: Declare Yourself

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.

Waking up the world

Listen up world! I’m enrolled in a MOOC!

Cormier’s second piece of advice is to declare yourself as a participant in the course.  If there is a discussion forum on the course website, introduce yourself.  If the course has a Twitter hashtag, set up a Twitter account and tweet about what you’re learning.  If the course asks people to reflect on the material on their own blog, make sure that your blog’s url is on your course profile so that your classmates can find the content you’ll be creating.

In my view, “declaring” serves a couple of purposes in a MOOC.

First, participants don’t have the benefit of face-to-face contact, so they have to introduce themselves and get to know each other online.  Setting up an online identity within the course, or associating the course with your social media profiles, facilitates communication and trust among participants.  The role of the instructor is often somewhat limited in MOOCs, and with enrollments in the tens of thousands, many MOOC instructors simply can’t offer the same kind of guidance that they might in a small face-to-face class.  Students are expected to help each other learn.  (In some MOOCs, students even grade and comment on each others’ essays.)  “Declaring” yourself in the MOOC indicates to others that you’re ready to engage with your classmates and with the material; that you’re ready to assume the joint responsibility of learning.

The second purpose of “declaring” is to set up an accountability system.  By introducing yourself to others in the class and, better yet, by openly discussing the MOOC on social media, you invite others to help you stick with the course.

If you blog about your experience in the course, you’re also developing a learning portfolio which can reflect your changing understanding of the material and how it relates to your goals.  This type of reflection can help you decide what to study next. The blog/portfolio can also help you represent your accomplishments to a future employer.  Finally, research  has shown that blogging helps students make course materials their own to a greater extent than participating in course discussion boards.

Steve Barber explains his reasons for blogging about the course as follows:

Why blog about it? I’ve decided to learn a lot of things in the past. Some I follow through on, some I don’t. I’ve recently lost a fair amount of weight, and one of the things that helped me do it was to blog about it. So, I thought, why not blog about what it’s like to learn Python with the MMOOC? I’m pretty sure it’ll help me, it might help other people taking the course, and maybe even the MMOOC people will find it valuable as they work on this or other courses.

Declaring Yourself in the Mechanical MOOC

The Mechanical MOOC will use OpenStudy as the primary means for students to communicate with each other.  The mechanism of communication will be to ask and answer questions about the course content.

The course will also use the Twitter hashtag #mMOOC.  This will allow participants (who use Twitter) to engage with each other outside the question-and-answer structure of OpenStudy. You can also follow the Mechanical MOOC via @MOOC-E, “international machine of mystery.” 😛

Another place to communicate with classmates is on the Codeacademy discussion forum.  CodeAcademy is encouraging users to mark their profiles as public in order to build community:

We believe learning works better when there are others to help you when you’re stuck, explain tricky points in more detail, and inspire you to learn even more. And at any given moment, there are thousands of users learning right alongside you, and their profile pages help you get to know them better.

My next mMOOC blog post will discuss what to do once you’ve declared yourself.  Step three: networking.

photo credit: mrlins via photopin cc

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About Claudia Scholz

Higher education professional in Atlanta, GA specializing in faculty development and research administration.
This entry was posted in MOOCs and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Success in MOOCs, step 2: Declare Yourself

  1. The importance of declaring yourself in a virtual environment cannot be overstated. It’s easy for students to simply drop out because they feel like there is no community and no connection.

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