In MOOCS no-one can hear you say “Hi”

This post was prompted by a couple of things. Firstly, I started another MOOC recently; Writing for the Web, a course from Australia’s new MOOC platform Open2Study. I’m still optimistic about learning how to improve my writing skills (and hope to see the benefits in this blog) but I was disappointed to be in yet another MOOC starting with a ‘getting to know you’ icebreaker activity along the lines of “Post a message to say Hi and tell us something about yourself”. Secondly, I tweeted the title of this post while I was at our CITE Digital Literacy conference on Online learners and MOOCs earlier this month (you can read about the event here). It popped into my head as I listened to one of the keynotes expressing the same frustration with these ‘say Hi’ activities. My tweet earned me a couple of new followers, and also a reply that cheerily enthused “They can read it when you write Hello though :)”. Well intentioned, but missing the point I fear…

There are over 1500 people signed up for the Writing for the Web course. That’s relatively small for a MOOC. Assuming that only half of them decide to post and I spend 30 seconds reading each ‘Hello’, that’s half a day gone before I watch the videos and take the quizzes; both of which there are an alarming number and seem to be connected to Open2Study’s badge system (I wish the designers had taken Kevin Werbach’s Coursera MOOC on gamification). I can’t possibly read everyone’s Hello posts and it’s not clear to me how it will benefit my learning should I try to.

Granted one of the biggest problems for designers of MOOCs is how you can form and foster groups, but this round robin activity doesn’t translate well from a small group/meeting setting into a class of thousands of participants. You wouldn’t start the opening lecture of a first year course by asking 200 students to introduce themselves individually. At the last count, 70,000 individuals had signed up to Cousera’s “Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence”. I’m not one of them, but I can only hope that it doesn’t start with “So say Hi and tell us about yourself…”

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photo credit: alexkess via photopin cc

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