Need-to-know News: Udacity’s New Direction, a MOOCjam and Competency Learning to Get Big Boost

This ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series features noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform traditional education as we know it. 

direction signs
direction signs (Photo credit: emreterok)

1) Udacity’s New Direction
Making headlines in education circles this week is Udacity’s about-face, its change in direction, and new reason for being. Thrun interviewed for a lengthy article in Fast Company magazine published last week, shared his new [and apparently improved] direction for Udacity—no longer is it higher education, the employment sector according to Thrun is the best market for Udacity’s MOOCs.  I shared my initial thoughts in a post earlier this week—my aim here is to share with readers the specifics of Udacity’s re-branding.

Udacity as readers will remember was heavily involved in higher education as recently as a few months ago. Udacity’s pilot program with San Jose State University was a significant investment for SJSU, however was a failure overall. Sadly, the majority of the students, including those requiring remedial support, failed the MOOC classes. In the Fast Company interview Thrun was dismissive of the pilot, and the students’ failures. Udacity apparently has found a more compliant market, (and more profitable) and is partnering with companies or what Thrun calls “industry partners”. Udacity’s partners according to Udacity’s blog:

Cloudera, the industry leader for enterprise data management software

As Mike Olson, Cloudera’s Chief Strategy Officer and Chairman of the Board, shared, “We believe in Udacity’s vision to democratize education by making professional training affordable and accessible to everyone, and believe this model will enable us to more effectively reach aspiring Big Data technologists around the world who want to expand their skills into Hadoop. Together, Cloudera and Udacity are leveling the playing field, empowering anyone with the desire to learn to get the necessary skills to succeed in the modern data economy, regardless of where they live or what their socio-economic background is.Udacity blog, November for app Development

That’s the whole premise of our Open Education Alliance and we’re really fortunate to be able to collaborate with and other industry leaders on this mission. Whether you’re looking to become a Salesforce developer, hoping to use Salesforce more effectively to get your work done, or just looking to build something, this course is a great first step.Udacity blog, November 18, 2013

Insights: Quite concerning is the power and influence the for-profit MOOC providers (Udacity and Coursera) hold—not only with coporations, but with some higher education institutions, state leaders, and even the Department of Education. Worrisome.

2) MOOCjam with George Siemens
This past Wednesday, George Siemens hosted a MOOCjam, an online day-long discussion about a conceptual framework consisting of “nine distinct components rooted in an underlying foundation of technology and systems support and evaluation”—developed for examining Massive Open Online Course experiences. Among the nine elements are design, learner profile and pedagogy.

The jam was part of the MOOC Research Initiative, led by Athabasca University and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal for the session was “to gain perspective and solicit ideas that inform the community”. Siemens shared that the revised framework will be introduced at the MOOC Research conference happening in early December of this year.

The main discussions focused on three areas related to the MOOC format, ‘the course’, ‘the learner’ and ‘the medium’. In the closing discussion that I participated in along with ten or so contributing participants, I discussed the Framework from the perspective that primarily it would be used as a guide for designing courses, (from my narrow instructional designer lens). Yet there are other perspectives to consider for its application which Siemens summarized into three themes, what form?, for whom? and for what purpose? [summary paragraph below]

“What purpose? There was much discussion about the Framework being used or misused to design courses, turned into a powerpoint as the “way” to MOOC, or being misconstrued. Brenda Kaulback viewed it as a conceptual framework, George Siemens as a way to reflect the experiences, Debbie Morrison as a way to help people know where to start when designing courses.”

Insights: The Framework and research coming from MOOC Research Initiative will likely evolve not just from these type of discussions, but will be influenced and shaped by external factors—debate and discussions about  MOOCs, and the institutions and organizations supporting them. The Framework has great potential, though I’m not sure what kind of  impact it will have in the MOOC community, given the mighty weight and influence of the for-profit MOOC providers. For the most part they seem to disregard much of the research about online learning that has evolved over the last few years.

3) Department of US Education’s Push For Competency Learning
The United States government is apparently gearing up to announce another push for competency based learning according to Hal Plotkin Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary of Education (OUS), United States Department of Education. Mr. Plotkin led a keynote address, The Role of Online  and Technology-enabled Learning in Meeting Obama’s 2020 Graduation Goal at the Sloan Consortium’s annual conference on online learning going on this week in Florida.

Plotkin said the department “can waive substantial sections of existing regulations that govern access to Title IV financial aid” for programs — both residential and online — that base student progress on “demonstrated levels of mastery rather than the tick of a semester or quarter clock.” The department will formally announce the initiative in the coming days, he said.

“Competency-based stuff would fit under that umbrella, but we don’t want to dictate how people might approach it — and maybe people will have ideas for us that are innovative but in a different area,” Plotkin said.  Inside Higher Ed

Next week will likely be another interesting and eventful week. Stay tuned.

Sebastian Thrun: MOOCs Not Effective for Undergraduate Education After All…

“I’d aspired to give people a profound education–to teach them something substantial,” Professor Sebastian Thrun tells me when I visit his company, Udacity, in its Mountain View, California, headquarters this past October. “But the data was at odds with this idea.” November 14, @FastCompany

The cat-is-out-of-the bag—Sebastian Thurn, founder of Udacity the MOOC provider that started MOOC mania two years ago states that MOOCs are not an effective modality for teaching undergraduate students after all.  Seriously. To most of us, this is not new news. I find Thrun’s admission most disturbing, not because the statement isn’t true—but it’s all that’s happened over the recent months that Thrun’s company has been responsible for including, the vast amount of funds spent on a pilot project at San Jose University, the students that failed their courses in this Udacity project, the sweeping statements about the power of the MOOC model to transform higher education, etc., etc.

The announcement, (or perhaps it’s more fitting to call it a confession) came last week in an article published in Fast Co, Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, Godfather of Free Online Education, Changes Course. The story features an interview with Thrun  [most of which was conducted during an intense bike ride] and is getting much press in the blogosphere. Many deride the fact that the article’s author Max Chafkin, doesn’t appear to have challenged Thrun’s sudden change in his core beliefs about MOOCs, nor his shift in views of higher education, which now appears to be as a vehicle for career preparation.

“We’re not doing anything as rich and powerful as what a traditional liberal-arts education would offer you,” he [Sebastian Thrun] says. He adds that the university system will most likely evolve to shorter-form courses that focus more on professional development. “The medium will change,” he says.” November 2013,@FastCompany

Admitting mistakes, changing direction and re-focusing  efforts in times of rapid change is not a negative, but a necessity. One could argue that Thrun is doing just that — demonstrating adaptability and responsiveness.  However Thrun’s statements go beyond changing direction, they are disturbing, primarily because it appears it’s the pressure of being a CEO of a for-profit company that is behind his flip-flopping. Udacity is a for-profit venture, with venture capitalist behind it expecting a return on their investment, and sooner rather than later.

As recently as three months ago, Thrun said this…

“The thing I’m insanely proud of right now is I think we’ve found the magic formula,” he said in an interview last week. “Had you asked me three months ago, I wouldn’t have said that. I’m not at the point where everything is great. There are a lot of things to be improved, a lot of mistakes we’re making, but I see it coming together.”   August, 2013, Udacity CEO says Magic Formula Emerging

And this statement made four months ago in response to a question asked during an interview with MIT Technology Review IT Editor Rachel Metz at Udacity’s office in California:

Where do you hope Udacity is five years from now?

I think we’ll be just like a university, but we’ll be a university for the 21st century.   July, 2013, Sebastian Thrun on the Future of Learning

I stop here, as many other fellow bloggers and educators have shared their insightful thoughts and perspectives on this most startling announcement (links below). Though I’ll close with one of Thrun’s most revealing statements that demonstrates his shift from an academic perspective on the value of education, to a CEO-perspective of a for-profit company.

“At the end of the day, the true value proposition of education is employment,” Sebastian ThrunNovember 2013, @FastCompany



Beyond the Buzz Words: Highlights from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario Conference

Buzzwords …Game-changing …..Paradigm shifts….Disruption…Innovation….Technology in the Classroom….MOOCs….Massive Open Online Courses…..Student-centered….

I attended the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario [HEQCO] two-day conference “Re-thinking higher ed Beyond the Buzzwords” last week on November 7 and 8th. The conference made the journey north to Toronto worthwhile; the keynote presentations were outstanding, each provided a unique perspective on the future and potential of higher education, as did the concurrent sessions.

The conference was introspective, forward-thinking, and uncluttered. Acknowledging the buzzwords upfront, putting them on the table had the effect of clearing the air. It felt similar to peeling back the top layers of an onion—allowing participants to get to the core discussions on the issues facing higher ed.

BtheB_Banner_ENGKeynotes of the Conference
The Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, a graduate of Harvard University, long-time educator and supporter of higher education, opened the conference. Another, Dr. David Helfand, physicist and professor of Columbia University described Quest University—an unconventional model for a new liberal arts university based in British Columbia during Thursday’s lunchtime keynote. And Da Hsuan Feng, Senior Vice President, Tsing Hua University delivered a presentation The Ascension of Asia-Pacific Higher Education on the rise and rapid expansion of universities in Asia [which will likely affect Western education institutions in the very near future].

Highlights of Keynotes:
Opening Keynote
Governor Johnston has a deep passion for education; he started as a professor of law, become a dean, then vice-chancellor of McGill University, and finally a president of the University of Waterloo in Canada. Highlights his advice to educators and administrators:
1. Reach out to other educators within and outside the institution
2. To department heads: encourage work and collaboration with outside institutions
3. Reach out to other countries—make connections outside of one’s institution
4. Leverage technologies
5. Create chaos in classroom stimulate students to think beyond the credential

Day One: Lunch Keynote
David Helfand is former president of the American Astronomical Society, an astronomy professor of  Columbia University [currently on leave], and is now the president and vice-chancellor of Quest University—Canada’s first independent, not-for-profit university founded in 2002.

Quest University’s foundation academic program built around a block system.

Helfand described how Quest University began, which was with a blank piece of paper. A new model for a 21st century university, created for today’s multi-tasking, connected student.
1. Goal of QuestU: create most engaging undergraduate education
2. Structure: Quest in stark contrast to traditional university—it has no departments, professors are called  tutors—every class sits around a table with a maximum of 21 students. There are no majors.
3. Curriculum: Liberal arts education, all students complete the same 16 courses. Each student picks a question to solve and takes two years to research, analyze  and present the problem as a capstone project that is delivered to a panel in his or her fourth year.  Based on Colorado college, block system. Take courses in a series. Students have one month to explore one subject—are able to delve deep into each topic.

Day Two: Lunch Keynote
Dr. Da Hsuan Feng of National Tsing Hua University gave a compelling talk on the emergence and future of Asian Universities. This talk was quite incredible, requiring a post all its own, though in summary intellectual courage and academic agility were its core themes.

Session Themes
Technology in the classroom
The skills gap—perception or reality?
New graduates in workplace
New models for higher education

Concurrent sessions were run as panel discussions on topics specific to higher education with selection of individuals to provide a breadth of perspective that included faculty, employers, students and administrators, addressing pressing topics in higher education.

Though the conference presenters and participants were primarily represented by Canadian institutions and organizations, there were a numerous faculty, administrators and journalists from the United States. Though there are cultural differences between Canada and USA’s higher ed systems, viewing challenges from another’s perspective proved to be instructive. Over the next couple of posts I’ll delve into at least two of the themes that may be of interest to readers, though I’ve highlighted key takeaways.

1. Institutions and its educators will need to be academically agile and intellectually courageous to thrive in the current climate of change and digital chaos.
2. New and innovative models of higher education will emerge in response to the pent-up demand for life-long education.
3. More pathways to alternative forms of higher education will develop, offering accessible and viable options of education for post-secondary students.
4. Education institutions in North America will change in ways yet to be determined as universities in Asia and other parts of the world grow, expand and educate millions of students.

Further Reading:

How Educators Can Make Time for Professional & Personal Development

Time business concept.What better time than the week after Labor Day, the traditional back-to-school kick-off, for educators to embrace opportunities for professional and personal development (PD). Though for some just the thought of beginning a PD course of any kind is overwhelming, even stressful. The most frequently cited barrier to engaging in extracurricular learning activities is time; not having enough of it, not being able to find it, and wishing for more. Warranted too, given the frenetic pace of our current culture. This post explores why embracing an online PD experience, whether an un-course, a MOOC or other, is enriching, fulfilling and motivating. I also address the time factor, and suggest how to approach investing time for PD learning with a different perspective so it becomes stress relieving, not stress inducing.

My original plan for this post was to share two PD learning opportunities that begin next week, Open Education Experience 2013, and How to Teach Online with Leeward College [both cMOOCs], but I decided to share first a viewpoint on PD that may be helpful for readers. I’ll will conclude though, with details on the two learning opportunities.

For an overview of MOOCs, and the difference between cMOOCs and xMOOCs, read The Ultimate Student Guide to xMOOCs and cMOOCs from MOOC News & Reviews.

Integrated Learning
The beauty of engaging in learning online within a community, in a MOOC format for instance, is that it’s driven by individuals’ learning goals, their contributions, and provides learning opportunities beyond what could be experienced solely in a face-to-face space. There’s also the added bonus of the opportunity to create a network of people to learn from and with, often referred to as a personal learning network. Yet learning this way should not be viewed as an extra activity on a to-do list. What makes PD successful is when learners choose to engage in experiences that inspire, that spark interest and motivation. Learning is not a chore when integrated within—with what you do, what you are passionate about.  I’ll provide an example here from my experience to illustrate the point.

This month I’m learning through Statistics in Education for Mere Mortals, from Canvas Network.  I’m not taking this course because I love statistics, and I’ve already completed several statistics courses. But I chose to take the course because of a work project I’m involved with. I’m in the process of researching pedagogical methods and principles that are applicable to online learning environments, and at the same time studying participation patterns of MOOC learners. The course [which could be classified as a xMOOC], coincides time wise and content wise with what I’m working on now. The professor is not only teaching theoretical concepts associated with educational research, but is using the course participants for a research study about MOOCs. He’ll be sharing the results with the participants of the course. I benefit in two ways, 1) by experiencing the instructional methods used within the course which allows me to study pedagogy used in a given online course, and 2) by being able to review and analyze the MOOC research results. Thus, I find myself making time to invest in the course.

I’ve also completed a few cMOOCs, connectivist MOOCs, which is a different experience from an xMOOC altogether. To clarify though, one experience is not better than the other, they are merely different. My cMOOC experiences have been expansive, social, even organic in the sense that my learning was developed through a series of varied connections that fit together to produce sometimes unexpected [learning] results. Each of the learning experiences I’ve described here work for me at a certain time within a given year. Though I invest in personal and professional learning for the most part year-round,  it’s the type and level of participation that varies, and is dependent upon numerous factors including current work projects, personal commitments, etc.

How to Make it Happen
Professional development is most successful, when time is devoted to learning that aligns with one’s work, personal projects, interests, and/or passions. The result is, that rather than having to find the time for PD, it happens because we make time. Though I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that even with the best laid plans for PD, it can’t always happen. ‘Stuff’ can get it in the way—life happens. Having a strategy for learning though does support success with PD in the long run.

Tips for Making Time for PD
There is a learning curve to learning effectively in an online environment — how to discern what to engage with, when and how. Even how to use technical tools associated with online learning, whether it be the course site, Twitter, a blog platform, etc requires time to learn. I could devote a whole post to this topic, and I will do so in the #OOE 2013 course, during a webinar I’m facilitating, “Success in OOE 2013: How to Make the Most of your Learning Experience” on September 18, 2013 (OOE 2013 calendar here).

In the meantime, below are three quick and dirty tips:
1) set aside a set amount of time each week for your own learning, block the time in your calendar
2) find a course or learning experience that interests you, and register. Check out to find a calendar of upcoming MOOCs in a breadth of topics
3) write about what you are learning: blog, write articles, or keep a personal journal (though usually you learn more when you share). That’s only the beginning. I’ve included some resources to move beyond the quick and dirty at the end of the post.

Two Learning Experiences
cropped-Gweb_Logo211) Open Online Experience 2013 is a 10-month long learning experience that aims to provide participants with a rich, immersive experience into the study and use of educational technology in teaching and learning. It is a professional development program with a difference: it is open to any teacher or faculty member who has internet access, and it has been designed on a “connectivist” model. To register, click here.

2) How To Teach Online” is a massive, open, online course (MOOC) that takes a broad view of teaching online. This five-week MOOC is for instructors of all experiences who teach online. Whether you are new to online teaching or want to improve your craft of teaching, “How To Teach Online” is a great place to share, connect, and learn from others around the world.

This is an open-access MOOC – no fees are required to join and participate. For this MOOC to be successful, we emphasize and are dependent upon, participant contributions and discussions as a means of exploring how to teach online. Your contributions are what makes the MOOC a success. Click here to register.


Need-to-Know News: Lackluster MOOCs, Disengaged College Grads and ThinkCERCA

In this ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series my aim is to share noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform traditional education as we know it.

logo_mainIn this post I’ve included two interesting developments from this week and a new web 2.0 resource for K-12 educators. First off, it likely will be of no surprise to readers that numerous higher ed institutions are becoming disillusioned with MOOCs. State and institutional leaders are realizing that MOOCs are not the answer to lowering costs and improving access for undergraduate education.  I also cover results from a study that suggests that undergraduates are not enjoying their jobs once they graduate, in fact they are more disengaged than non-degree earners. And, I share an innovative platform for K-12 educators designed to teach critical thinking, and support common core standards.

1)  MOOCs in Undergraduate Higher Education
It seems that MOOCs are beginning to lose their luster. This week San Jose State University [SJSU] announced it would pause the working relationship with Udacity.  San Jose State partnered with Udacity last year to create three online courses, a remedial math course, a college algebra course and an introductory statistics course. It has not gone well. Several factors have contributed, but I believe the primary reason is the fact that entry-level undergraduate students, especially students requiring remediation, do not have the skills required to be successful in a MOOC. Furthermore these students require considerable instructional support, faculty feedback and skill development in how to learn in an online environment.

“Preliminary findings from the spring semester suggest students in the online Udacity courses, which were developed jointly with San Jose State faculty, do not fare as well as students who attended normal classes.” (Rivard, 2013)

Insight: SJSU pilot project is a costly mistake. Not only was the deal that SJSU struck with Udacity a significant expense, students’ learning was compromised. SJSU rushed into the project without a strategic plan or conducting an analysis, and are now suffering the consequences. Online courses [not MOOCs] can work for college students and are effective, however careful and thoughtful planning, detailed course development is critical, as is instructional support. Why San Jose State would think offering remedial and entry-level courses in a MOOC would work is beyond me.

2) College-educated Americans Disengaged with Work
A most interesting report released this week by Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report found that employed Americans of all ages with college degrees are less likely to be engaged at work than are their respective peers with a high school education or less.

The engagement findings by education level are based on Americans’ assessments of workplace elements with proven linkages to performance outcomes, including productivity, customer service, quality, retention, safety, and profit”. (


Insight: At least half of graduates are working in jobs that don’t require a degree, which likely accounts for low-levels of workplace engagement. A workforce of disengaged workers is not a sign of a healthy or productive economy, nor is it good for individuals’ health and well-being. There are several ways to interpret these results. One is that workplaces are failing to provide environments that are stimulating; where workers can apply their skills. Another, is that colleges may not be preparing students to transition into the workplace as well as they could be. There is much discussion about the value of higher education, and how its purpose is far more than for vocational opportunities— agreed. However there is an opportunity for life skills education that could help students realize their full potential as they transition from college to the working world.

3) ThinkCERCA
A Method: Our focus on argumentation as a method for teaching critical thinking is a simple way to increase rigorous engagement with all sorts of texts. Simply by treating all texts as arguments we allow readers to take an analytic approach.

A Platform: Our platform allows teachers and students to collaborate more effectively by sharing a common language and set of practices that focus instruction on critical thinking.

A Library: ThinkCERCA™ allows teachers to collaborate more easily by providing a simple framework for sharing, using, and personalizing lessons. Our content library is CCSS aligned and engaging for students.

Until next week. In the meantime you can keep posted on articles I find of interest which I post on Twitter @OnlineLearningI.

A MOOC Quality Scorecard applied to Coursera Course

In this post I review a recently completed Coursera course using a quality scorecard approach to measure and quantify five key dimensions of the course.

checkmarkI’m in the final week of a Coursera MOOC, Sports & Society that for the most part has been lackluster and disappointing. I expected a university level course that would provide  learning and perspectives into the social and cultural dimensions that affect sports participation and perceptions across different cultures. It missed the mark. Granted, the majority of Coursera courses are ‘lite’ versions of the real thing—few mimic the workload or rigor of the face-to-face counterparts, which is fine [even preferred when taken for personal development] given the courses are not promoted as such.

Though a lite version does not mean that meaningful and deep learning cannot occur. I’ve completed two other Coursera courses, Introduction to Sociology, and E-learning and Digital Cultures. Both courses provided rich learning with scholarly materials, challenging assignments and opportunities to gain knowledge beyond the course site. Though the Sports & Society course wasn’t completely inadequate, in fact some things were done well, but for all the effort and resources that went into the course, it missed the mark quite significantly in terms of providing conditions for meaningful learning to occur. I see an opportunity to share here with readers what contributed to a mediocre MOOC learning experience. To provide an illustrative framework for this review, I’ve created a MOOC quality scorecard review, that is [loosely] based on a quality scorecard approach and my   course design experience.

Course Overview
I have a keen interest in the topic of Sports & Society, specifically youth and college sports and its effects on youth development – the emotional, physical, and educational dimensions. I won’t get into details here, but I write about this topic on another one of my blogs, school and sports, and research the topic frequently. Coursera’s Introduction to Sociology expanded my interest in the topic, which has led me to several excellent resources on Sports Sociology.

To put this course review into context, following is the course description for Sports & Society. I want to emphasize that they were no objectives, goals or purposes outlined for the course, which made defining the scope of the course a challenge, as well as determining my learning goals.

Course Description: “Sports play a giant role in contemporary society worldwide.  But few of us pause to think about the larger questions of money, politics, race, sex, culture, and commercialization that surround sports everywhere. This course draws on the tools of anthropology, sociology, history, and other disciplines to give you new perspectives on the games we watch and play. We will focus on both popular sports like soccer (or “football,” as anyone outside America calls it), basketball, and baseball, and lesser-known ones like mountain-climbing and fishing.”   

MOOC Quality Scorecard Review: Coursera, Sports & Society

Criterion Scoring
0 points = Not Observed
1 point = Insufficiently Observed
2 points = Moderate Use
3 points = Meets Criterion Completely

1)  Quality of Instructional Methods: Sports & Society:  Score: 1/3

Criteria for scoring
♦ Course includes objectives that provide direction for course ♦ instructor demonstrates expertise in subject area, presents topics that relate to course objectives in cohesive manner ♦ course environment encourages student to make connections/construct new knowledge and/or demonstrate knowledge ♦ instructor presents alternative viewpoints ♦ students encouraged to draw upon personal experience and encouraged to apply/reflect on course concepts.

My Comments
The course felt disjointed, topics were unrelated and did not appear to move towards an objective or goal. It was a passive learning experience, with little encouragement or opportunities to apply content, reflect or share content/resources. The course was instructor-focused, content was primarily delivered via professor lecturing. Instructor did not go into deep analysis of principles, apply theoretical constructs or provide different perspective on topics – for example, neglected to mention other  institution’s in society, and the role/influence each play in sports, i.e. governments, International Olympic Committee, NCAA (in the US for instance) etc. Another, the instructor presented a narrow point-of-view on the topic – Business of Sports, suggesting that big corporations are solely responsible for the commercialization of professional and college sports.

sports & society, Coursera

2) Quality, Depth & Breadth of Course Materials: Sports & Society: Score: 2/3

Criteria for scoring
♦ Variety of content sources with breadth of perspectives ♦ content goes beyond professor video lecture ♦ numerous links provided to open source content with variety/breadth ♦ students encouraged to contribute to course content and/or have access to venue within course site to share/discuss findings ♦ readings include scholarly sources with peer-reviewed papers via downloadable PDF format and/or open access resources ♦ current content included to provide relevant context/perspective for topic.

My Comments
Video lectures were informative, though primarily featured professor lecturing. There were some references made to the readings. Weekly readings varied, with average number of pages assigned between 15 and 30. It might have been helpful to have  optional readings each week, for students wanting to delve deeper into a topic (there were two or three).  Two of the weekly featured selected chapters from a non-fiction book—one from a book the professor authored. A link was provided for those interested in purchasing the book at a discounted price for Coursera students, which comes across as a tactic to sell the book, more so when it is the only reading for the given week. Only two or three readings were from scholarly sources/peer-reviewed journals (here is an example of readings from week 6, here, (a chapter from a non-fiction book)and  an optional reading here). Few materials encouraged deep analysis or described theoretical principles of topic.

3) Interaction: Student & Social Engagement: Sports & Society: Score: 2/3

Criteria for scoring
♦ Students are provided a venue within course site to interact with other students ♦ forums are monitored to ensure discussion is respectful, non-threatening and safe ♦ Twitter hashtag created for course ♦ students encouraged [not mandated] to engage with other students via platforms outside of course site ♦ instructor/ TA engages within forum discussions that are specific to course topics to promote higher order thinking ♦ live events [Google hangout/webinar] for students to watch/engage via real-time comments, i.e. professor with guest, groups of students discussing reading etc.

My Comments
Four Google Hangout events scheduled, though two were cancelled due to technical difficulties. The two that did work featured guest speakers, and select class members for discussion, and allowed for students to post live comments while watching. These were very good.  Forums had few students commenting and contributing, but this allowed for easy to follow discussions threads. Instructor did get involved in some discussion forums. A Twitter hashtag was not assigned to course to promote interaction or sharing. This is a missed opportunity, as Twitter is an excellent platform to engage students throughout the course, to share content, promote blog posts, encourage chats & connections, etc.

4) Activities & Assessments: Sports & Society: Score: 1/3

Criteria for scoring
♦ Learning activities prompt students to share their learning ♦ activities leverage international perspectives of student body ♦ instructions for assignment include descriptions of the purpose and rationale i.e. why learners are doing the assignment/activity ♦ assessments provide further opportunity to learn ♦ assessments encourage students to find information ♦ assessment(s) align with course outcomes [as per certificate].

My Comments
Little encouragement or opportunity to apply content, to reflect and share.  Assessments were five-question quizzes, two per week—one on assigned reading and the other lecture content. Neither assessments nor activities promoted higher order thinking skills, analysis, evaluation or critical thinking.

5) Interface of Course Site / Instructional Design: Sports & Society: Score: 3/3

Criteria for scoring
♦ ‘Start-here’ section [orientation] included for introduction to course and site itself ♦ course instructions and requirements for each week/module are detailed ♦ clear expectations for assignment completion, peer review process and/or quizzes/tests outlined and accessible ♦ clear guidelines for certificate requirements as applicable ♦ instructional materials are accessible and easy to use ♦ links to technical support.

Very good interface on Coursera site, easy to navigate. Includes a ‘start-here’ orientation page. Instructions and expectations concise and thorough. Schedule and due dates page was helpful to clarify dates.  Technical support available.

MOOC Scorecard for Sports & Society: Total  9/15

I’ll close with this: I appreciate that Cousera provided this course for free. I also appreciate the time that the professor put into this course; his work and effort, which no doubt was considerable. The score above is based upon my personal viewpoint. The purpose of this post is to provide insight into what could improve the course, and for other educators to learn from one student’s perspective.