I’ve been meaning to write this for a couple of weeks. Like most professors, the end of a semester is a notoriously difficult time. This fell to the bottom of my important-things-that-need-to-be-done list.
Overall, I think I enjoyed the course. It wasn’t really at the level that I found to be intellectually challenging, but that wasn’t the whole reason I took the course. I wanted to experience online education, get some ideas that I could maybe take back to my classroom and teaching, and maybe learn something new.
Experiencing online education: this was the first online class I’ve ever taken as a student, and yet I’ve taught/run one for a year. That hardly seemed fair. I learned that like many students, I tended to procrastinate doing my coursework until the last possible minute. I felt much happier when I did not do that–but it was admittedly rare. I liked being able to pause the video lectures and take notes on them at my own pace–this was a definite advantage. I could grab screenshots of what they were showing in the lectures. Keep in mind that when I was an undergrad, laptops in class were really, really rare; most professors weren’t using PowerPoint yet, and “downloadable” lecture notes were virtually unheard-of. This was a whole new world. It was more physically comfortable to be sitting on my couch or curled up in bed (or, once, even while taking a hot bath), but there were more distractions that way, too. My biggest gripe I think is that it was too easy to get a very good grade. It’s easy to offer students multiple attempts at a quiz or test, but I could too-easily identify which questions I missed (they were clearly indicated) and easily correct that on a second attempt. I did not have to go back and review the material to do well. Multiple attempts are important: the internet connection can sometimes drop or your browser can crash or any host of other issues that we all encounter, and professors have to take that into account. I suppose that brings me to my next goal in taking this course.
What am I bringing back to my own classroom? One: not making keys available to students. Period. I understand they want to know what they got right and what they missed, but it does not really get them to review things if you tell them “you missed #3, see, the correct answer was B, while you chose D.” Two-peer review might actually be useful and easier to implement than I thought. The feedback was often less than helpful on mine, but I learned two important things: it’s critical to keep the feedback anonymous. Some of the students I talked with this term indicated that one of their least-favorite aspects of peer review was feeling pressured to give their friends (or other students in their course) a good grade–even if that pressure was purely psychological. In the example I encountered in this MOOC, we graded by using drop-down menu choices: “0: did not include references” or “1: included references.” I would prefer to expand on that slightly to help students learn to CITE references (in-text citation), and to include quality references. Both are critical to scientific writing. This is a more objective means of grading the papers. In my case, a rubric was provided. I did not like that, either. It made it too easy to treat the paper like a checklist. I think providing instructions to the students on format and general expectations and maybe specific questions might be good. You could theoretically skip providing peer responses, but that cost you 20% of your grade–and I liked that a lot. In the 2nd MOOC I took this term, there was a 10% penalty for late work turned in after a certain date. I’m going to implement that. I had a week where I turned in my work late. I even took my midterm late. I accepted the penalty without question or complaint, because I knew going into it that this would happen and I was willing to take that hit to my grade (and I really, really wanted an A).
To give an example, this term my students had to write a mock lab report based on a simulation experiment. I provided a pretty detailed set of questions and guidelines, but grading them was still very time-consuming. This would be a great time to have students do peer evaluations on the experiments: they all had to do the lab part, so they should all be familiar with the work. The drop-down menu system or something similar could easily be implemented to maintain that objectivity. I would definitely keep the 80/20 split. One thing that I would change: I’d allow students to submit, get their peer grades, and REVISE AND RESUBMIT. This more closely reflects the actual process of scientific writing and can help them learn and improve. I’m not sure how I’d weight initial & final draft though.
Other than all that, I actually really enjoyed my MOOCs. I’m signed up for 4 more. They’re a great way to continue to expand your knowledge and grow.