Exploring MOOCs: my early observations

So I've been on a mission to MOOC up my life lately. Probably all part of that pre-poned mid-life crisis but I'd like to think there's a higher purpose to my primary research, which I'll no doubt discover as my project progresses. Here are some very early observations:

  • Branding matters (to some people, some of the time): All the MOOCs I've signed up for have been from so-called top tier institutions e.g. Harvard, Stanford and MIT. If I'm brutally honest about it, this is no accident. Despite everything I learned on the MBA, I'm a sucker for a strong brand. And no, I don't care about badges and this won't be going on my CV (edX does offer ID-verified pathways for some courses but it's not my cup of tea). For me, the brand is a signalling mechanism. It's my cognitive shortcut in terms of choosing courses I assume will be interesting, well-designed and well-taught. This kind of snap judgment might be completely unfair and unhelpful but there you have it.
  • My attention span for online lectures is breathtakingly limited: Data mining efforts at edX indicate that average engagement for online educational videos tends to max out at about 6 minutes. I think I zone out at 1.5. However, edX won't always catch this because I sometimes leave the video running while attending to other tasks. Or maybe they will. After all, data analytics as a science is becoming more and more sophisticated by the day.
  • I think it's the eye contact that I miss: Why is it that I can sit happily through a 2.5 hour lecture at university or on the MBA (with a 10/15 minute break) but 3 minutes of video footage makes me feel like I'm ageing in my seat? My gut feeling is that it's the eye contact, the personal rapport you can build with a real, live tutor. And, of course, the back-and-forth Q&A or real-time classroom banter. Now, this may not be true for everyone but I think it's true for me. With online courses, I'd much rather read, write and reflect than watch a man in a box. Would I feel differently about a "live" presentation e.g. a Google Hangout? Can't say - I haven't tried. One for the To Do list.

Well, those are some initial thoughts. More when I've made a dent in this research.