Coursera crash

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.