I’ve been busy the last week with my first MOOC (massive open online course) run by Georgia Tech via Coursera. The course was about the fundamentals of online course design. Ironically, the course management was a lesson in how NOT to organize a course online. Signing up for study groups was naively done via a Google spreadsheet. The numbers of participants were so high that Google’s servers were overloaded. It took me 48 hours before I could enter my name in a cell (Group 57). As anyone who has tried to use Google spreadsheets for this kind of collaborative planning, the biggest flaw is that anyone can rewrite the content, which was promptly done. Every hour or so, the group contents were deleted, and completely overwritten.
The instructor told us just to stick with the group you started with, but many participants felt confused and rejected.
Once on the material, it was often confusing where to go and what to do. After one week it was clear enough, but it took a lot of trial and error on my part.
This morning I saw that the instructor has pulled the plug on the course, and course pages now only show
Sorry, this class site is now closed.
Very frustrating, especially since I’d spent a lot of time on the assignments and had got all my credits for the first week.
For a more detailed analysis of what went wrong with Georgia Tech’s MOOC, see the excellent post and discussion at Online Learning Insights.
After the summer break, I got busy setting up a new eLearning platform for our local university. It was an upgrade from a version I had introduced to a limited group of students last year, and offered lots of features for interactive learning with a sleek interface.
In the last two weeks, my colleagues and I have set up around 15 courses, with over 700 registered users. However, what started as a little experiment on my shared virtual server, is now a monster with a constant appetite for database queries; the result is frequent warnings of overload, impatient students (definition: anything longer than instantaneous), and further warnings from my hoster of CPU throttling.
As if this weren’t enough, there’s a DDOS attack underway.
I hope it’s not my students trying to upload their assignments :oops:
Ten days into the summer break and I feel a change coming on: no longer thinking about teaching projects and grading, my mind has been increasingly filled with personal geeky projects, driven in large part by the recent purchase of my first smartphone. I’m not going to give in to the boring clichés (it’s like the Internet on acid!), but it has opened my eyes to the ease of cross-communicating — importing the university contacts list in one click, syncing tweets, news, and of course everything google, could not be easier. The forces of serendipity were also present with the launch of Google+, which I joined two days after its launch (thanks to Gordon).
I’m withholding judgement about G+, although I note that in my G+ stream I tend to be a lone voice expressing doubt among an almost constant gush of positivity.
As if Google wasn’t already expanding its realm of influence ever wider (watch out McAfee; Google has just announced its move into malware scanning), Craig Judd hooked me up with an invite to ifthisthenthat (ifttt.com/wtf), which offers a mindboggling range of cross-communication actions. Some of the actions are not especially innovative, for example automatically posting new photos on FB to Flickr, or using the clock feature to trigger reminders. However, there are some really useful / fun combinations. For example, you can set it so that every time my daughter plays a Ke$ha track (scrobbled to my Lastfm account), send me an SMS; or when the temperature drops below 15 degrees celsius, SMS my son to put on his jacket.
You get the idea.
New channels seem to be added very regularly — WordPress being a recent, highly sought-after option — and with more channels, the connectivity possibilities grow enormously.
So tomorrow I’ll start playing around with it some more, immediately after we’ve swapped two kids’ bedrooms — I’ll probably only be able to lift a finger, which is fortunately all you need these days ;-)