Just one more MOOC post….

November 23, 2013

I was one of many who finished the class! Photo by James Cridland via CC

I was one of many who finished the class! Photo by James Cridland via CC

The professor shared some statistics with us on the Google Media MOOC, and I thought I would share them with you:

  • Of the original 40,000+, 1,196 received certificates of accomplishments and 2,100 were still registered.
  • 985 participants submitted all the assignments
  • 1 student made 187 posts (!) and 9 students posted more than 100 times
  • Total number of posts to the forums: 25,647


  • 1 person got a perfect 100%!
  • 127 people scored 95% and above
  • 257 scored 90%-94% (my score was 92.2%)
  • 247 scored 85%-89%
  • 187 scored 75%-79%

Looking at the above, some people may conclude that out of the original group who signed up, only 2.9% completed the class.  However, we can look at this another way: almost 1,200 people successfully undertook a 6 week class FOR FREE from all over the world.  In a traditional classroom, perhaps the class would have consisted of 30 people.  So, 40 times more people were able to enrich their knowledge on a current topic by using an online medium rather than just a face-to-face class. FOR FREE.

When reading about MOOCs, many people have a misconception that it is both easier and cheaper to provide classes online.  Northwestern’s Google Media class was extremely well done and thought out, and that type of instruction doesn’t come cheaply, in time or technology.  The upside is that once you have developed the course, it can be replayed again and again, with minor changes updating quizzes or reading lists. This article estimates that the cost to set up a MOOC could be around $150,000.

We the participant benefit from these free educational opportunities, but will the costs be sustainable for those producing them?  This remains to be seen.

I would definitely take another course, and do think that there is a future for these types of courses.  It will be very interesting to see how traditional colleges handle them, or incorporate them into their classes over time.


The MOOC Wrap Up

November 10, 2013

Photo courtesy of homas Ryberg

Photo courtesy of homas Ryberg

I have yet to receive my final grade and certificate, but the class was completed last week.  Here is an estimate of my personal involvement:

  • Course was 6 weeks long;
  • Readings were extensive.  Each week I spent approximately 2 hours reading and reviewing the majority of the materials;
  • Lectures: usually 3 per week; ranging from about 15-20 minutes each;
  • Online videos: this varied, and most videos were under 20 minutes, but sometimes they were as long as close to an hour;
  • Quizzes: 6–took about 10 minutes to complete;
  • Written assignments: to be done thoughtfully and within the requirements of the rubric, about 1+  hours to complete;
  • Peer review: we were to peer review 5 classmates, and then ourselves.  1/2 hour per week;
  • Forum participation: varied depending on the topics.  I followed about 6-7 topics and commented about 40-50 times total.

To total that up, this 6 week course took approximately 5-7  hours per week of effort. 

As mentioned in the last post, there were many things that I learned.  I want to bring just a couple of observations about the MOOC process through this particular course:


  • This particular course through Northwestern was well-organized and thoughtful in its purpose.
  • The lectures were well done and engaging, and not dry at all.
  • All material tied together well.
  • Most materials were readily available online; I checked one book out of the library to use as part of the course.
  • Older materials were supplemented with newer articles for relevancy.
  • I learned a lot.


  • Interaction via the forums became pretty unwieldy as some topics would have hundreds of comments.
  • Redundancy of comments after about a week made following some forums a waste of time.
  • The time needed to complete this course successfully was underestimated.
  • Some of the materials seemed dated.
  • Lack of professor evaluation of assignments.
  • Peer grading could be difficult as some students did not have English as a first language.

Overall, the course was great and the professor engaged and committed. Going back to my first post on the MOOC, I had set three goals for myself:

1. Set aside the time to do the readings and assignments

2. Set aside the time to contribute to the online discussions or forums

3. Be dedicated and consistent.

Dedicating time each day to work on this class allowed me to be successful, and these goals served me well.

Would I take another MOOC? Absolutely!  But I would definitely make sure that the timing was right for my home and work life in order to be successful.

Learn more with these sites and articles:


Will MOOCs Change the Way Professors Handle the Classroom?

An Early Report Card on MOOCs (WSJ)

So is it lonely in MOOClandia?

Massively Open Online Course: A First Report Card

Top 10 Misconceptions about MOOCs

A Direction for Online Courses

This is the last week of my MOOC.  I thought I would share a few things I learned in the course.  In the next post I will wrap up the experience of the MOOC itself.

One of the most surprising things I learned was how little we as a society know about the control that search engines and companies really have over our lives.  On the one hand, I love Google. Google makes our lives easier in so many ways.  I believe that when Google began (and even now), there is a utopian idea of “organizing the world’s information and making it accessible and useful.”

However, as Vaidyanathan states, Google gives us a “comforting illusion of objectivity.” We think our search results have no subjectivity, when in reality, each document we put on Google Drive, each post we make on Google+ or Facebook, each keystroke is documented and used in the algorithm that shapes our search results and hence our lives.  This is the trade-off for how Google improves our lives.

Cool things:

  • Google Street View: cool way to see places around the world.
  • Localization is different: it used to be that local was within the geographical area; now, local is whatever you can ACCESS and find out more about easily. Easy access to information, truth and knowledge has opened up the world to everyone and hopefully made it a better place.
  • Connections: Because the Internet, Google, and social networking allows us to connect easier with others who have similar interests, the niche is now as important as mainstream. See the Long Tail…
  • Google Books: This is both cool AND scary–cool because the opportunity to access all this vast knowledge is wonderful for society, but scary because all this information in the hands of one corporation provides an easy way for a monopoly on information.

Scary things:

  • The Filter Bubble: my search results may differ from yours, as Google will shape your results based on every search you do. And, you have little control over it.
  • Reduced IQs: our IQ scores diminish because we have a “crisis of attention”: our constant checking of social media and filling every gap of our time causes our creative and problem-solving parts of the brain to atrophy. (Joe Kraus-Slow Tech). Additionally, Nicolas Carr sees that all this media tends to “scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.”
  • Face recognition has come a LONG way in 10 years: experiments done using Facebook and Match.com with face recognition software was able to: within 4 attempts, 27% of all subjects had the first 5 numbers of their social security number identified merely through their faces. It is predicted by 2021 that it will take fewer than 5 minutes to find a match using just a face.

As I wrote in my final written assignment, I believe that the decrease in our anonymity and the increase in data collection improves our lives, with this caveat:

Does this convenience mean we trade in our privacy and the control of our reputations, as Vaidyanathan suggests?  I don’t think so.  However, we should be vigilant, and understand that privacy and secrecy are different, with different rules. We should hold institutions accountable for how they use our information, and insist on transparency.  The more open we are with each other, the easier it will be to see and mitigate violations of this trust.

This is the part that concerns me: that not enough people realize how little control they have over the information they have provided to these companies.  Although the companies provide their “privacy policies”, people have freely given away information that serves the company and not necessarily themselves. Knowledge is power, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  What will happen when different people are in charge of these companies, and perhaps their ideas are not as altruistic as the founders?  Of this we need to be aware.

MOOC: The Forums

October 12, 2013

Design : Umesh Modak

Design : Umesh Modak

For this post, I am going to post briefly about some of the forums and observations based on the discussions.  Remember, the course is being taken by people all over the world, so experience and language can vary widely.

Based upon our readings, videos, and lectures, these are the questions that I have followed most closely, some posted by the professor and others by students.  My opinions here are based upon browsing the posts of other students and my impressions of the prevailing opinions.

1. Would you pay for YouTube?

This seems to be fairly split between some feeling that YouTube does not offer enough valuable content for it to further monetize its content, and those who would pay for it like they do Netflix.  YouTube has some paid channels, which are very specialized, and many are geared to children’s programming.  Several people liked the idea of sporting events they cannot see otherwise where they live.  Several also said that they would pay to avoid advertising.  I personally would not pay at this time, but may pay on a per-view basis depending on the programs.

2. Do you trust online ratings….?

Many people do not trust online ratings, but it varied as to the type of commodity that was being rated.  As far as restaurant reviews, several people had the experience that reviews were often fake (see this article).  People were more likely to trust book reviews, particularly if they were more descriptive of the content.  Additionally, there were comments about the fact that some reviewers will give a bad rating based upon one small thing, but not looking at the experience as a whole. I found I trust these sites perhaps more than I should.

3. Will the print book disappear?

LOTS of discussion here. I would say it was split pretty much down the middle.  There were some VERY passionate defenders of the printed word, and lots of emotion.  Those who like the printed word talked mostly about the feel of the book, seeing it on the shelf, the smell (?), the familiarity.  A few spoke of how it is easier to read print for long periods than online for them. The faction that believe the print book will disappear soon love their digital reading devices and feel that the printed book may exist only as an artifact or for special collectors.  It was a very interesting discussion and it led me to believe that print will continue to exist at least for the next couple generations because that it what we are comfortable with.

4. When is the public better informed…?

This question was based upon a couple of videos we watched on both the 2012 Republican debates and a Google Hangout that Obama had before the 2012 election.  The heart of the question was whether the public is better informed with the ability of candidates to directly address a video question from the voting public.  Prevailing opinion on the forum was that this does bring the process closer to the voter; however, several people pointed out that these questions were still chosen and screened (and probably manipulated in some way.)  I feel that more dialogue is better, no matter the medium, so the public is probably better informed in some ways, but that (as with all information) you have to take it all in analysis with everything else.

5. Discussion about cheating on this course

Apparently someone copied and pasted a Wikipedia entry into the assignment box and a huge discussion of cheating ensued.  Of course, no one was condoning cheating, but several people (me included) felt that education on the topic may be warranted due to the cultural/language situation.  There was quite the vitriolic discussion, and actually sometimes I think a little tooself-righteousness going on, but it is  interesting to note how seriously people are taking this educational experience (me included.)

Stay tuned for more as we wrap up the last couple of weeks!  It has been intense!

MOOC: Weeks 2 & 3

October 4, 2013

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Almost halfway through my Coursera MOOC on Understanding Media by Understanding Google (see previous post here.)  It is fairly intense.  I am still doing about 4-5 hours of work per week.

So far, we have learned quite a bit. Week 1 focused on search and how Google works.  Week 2 consisted of Google News and Google Books, as well as a 300 word essay.  Week 3 had us exploring advertising (if you haven’t taken a look at how AdWords and AdSense works, and how those ads get to the top and side of your search page, you should! It is fascinating!)


1. I suck at the quizzes.  I take them at least twice.  They are generally 5 points, and usually I get about 3 or 3.5.  However, I do the readings, watch the lectures, and take notes, so I am not worrying about it.

2. It is hard to write in 300-350 words a summary of the questions they give us for our peer graded written work.  I say this as a book reviewer who needs to keep the reviews under 200.  My experience as a book reviewer has served me well, but I imagine this is hard for others.

3. The forums are quite active. In the past day there has been a heated exchange on plagiarism, as Professor Youngman pointed out that someone had found a peer had cut/pasted from Wikipedia.  No one condones the cheating, but the fact that there are 40,000 people from many, many countries with many languages means there may be different cultural aspects or misunderstandings happening.  My hope is that the professor will educate everyone even more on plagiarism and how it exists in many forms.  There is an honor code, so we are told about doing one’s own work.  I am curious as to how this will all turn out.

4. I have already used one of the concepts learned in the class about the “filter bubble” (see the TED Talk here) as part of a website evaluation class I taught at my job, and the instructor was really fascinated by it.  So I am already passing on the knowledge!

I will get my first peer evaluation results on Monday and have finished this week’s homework and quiz already.  I am going to start Week 4 lectures this weekend, which focuses on YouTube.

Besides the fact that the class takes a lot of time, I am enjoying it and learning.  You definitely have to be able to be diligent and self-motivated, though, to be successful.

MOOC: Week 1

September 21, 2013

Use courtesy of Elliot Lepers

Just a quick post so that I can actually keep working on the Week 2 lectures and readings today!

Observations so far:

1. I find it really cool that there are people in this course from every continent and from areas as diverse as Iceland and New Zealand. Over 41,000 are signed up for this course.  At least a couple thousand are being active in the various forums.

2. I find it even more impressive that so many of these people are taking this course without English being their first language.  I could never take a class that was primarily in Spanish or French or Chinese or Polish!

3. This course has a lot of reading and video lecture time.  It says 2-4 hours per week in the description, but so far, I have easily spent about 5-6 reading, watching, and interacting in the forums.  According to some of the students who have been in other Coursera classes, this is a lot of reading and work in comparison to other courses.

4. I am already learning quite a bit, and the information is very interesting.  It is a REAL course.  I have had my first quiz (I got a 3.75 out of 5) and we have a written assignment that will be released on Monday.  We have to peer grade others as well, so I will see how that goes.

5. Some of my most valuable learning comes from the forums and the topics I choose to follow.  Posting and commenting is part of our grade.  I will follow-up in consequent posts about these topics.

So, back to the grind!  To learn more about our MOOC, see this Huffington Post article or check out this video from Chicago Tonight: The MOOCs are Coming

Getting ready to MOOC

September 7, 2013

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I am getting ready to take a 3 week course through a MOOC (Massively Open Online Course.)  This particular class is called “Understanding Media by Understanding Google” via Coursera.

The topic of MOOCs has been much discussed in higher education circles and in the media (2013 is sometimes cited as the Year of the MOOC in various publications.) Often articles are critical, and just as often MOOCs are seen as a threat to the traditional higher education experience.  For example, several pieces have been written about MOOCs in Inside Higher Ed (search for MOOCs to see a variety of observations).  Some programs boast great results with their students and high student satisfaction; others say that low forum usage and completion rates (often cited between 7-17%) make the learning experience watered down and unsuccessful.

So, I decided to see what all the fuss is about.

I have taken online classes before (notably through Simmons and ALA continuing education.) Each of these was a valuable learning experience.  When taking an online course, you need to:

1. Set aside the time to do the readings and assignments

2. Set aside the time to contribute to the online discussions or forums (sometimes these are as valuable as the class!)

3. Be dedicated and consistent.  Because these were generally asynchronous (you can do them anytime, anywhere), you are completely responsible for setting up your own checkpoints and learning experience.  Just like in a traditional course, you will get out of it what you put into it.

The differences that I see so far between a traditional online class and a MOOC are:

  • A MOOC is often free, so the incentive to complete the coursework because you have paid for it is not there;
  • An online course generally has 1 or 2 instructors, and a limited amount of students.  My course so far as 40,000 participants!
  • Completing a MOOC is not necessarily something that employers or colleges will “give you credit” towards continued professional development.  The online courses I took through both ALA (accrediting library body) and Simmons College gave me “legitimacy” that perhaps a MOOC will not.

As my class begins in a couple of weeks, more differences may become apparent.  I plan to complete the course, and observe the learning experience, and then sum it up in this blog.

Created by Jessica Duensing for opensource.com

Created by Jessica Duensing for opensource.com

The new Beloit Mindset List came out this past week.  Some of the observations that stuck out for me were: they have only known 2 Presidents; never had chicken pox (a rite of passage when I was a kid); Java has never been just a cup of coffee; they have never attended a concert in a smoke-filled arena; and most films have been computer generated in some way.

This is very different from when I was their age (computers were just becoming “personal” and card catalogs and Reader’s Guide abounded for research.)  I am striving to be mindful of the generational differences so I can help both the young and the older students alike with understanding, compassion, enthusiasm, and grace.

Last year, I posted this about the new school year. I still find the first days of school exciting; excitement (also maybe panic?) is palpable in the air.  Especially for the brand-new students (of any age): they need to learn the computer system, where the classes are, and how to use our online class management system, all while actually getting the particulars of their classes and responsibilities for that class. So as cool and knowledgeable as they think they are, the students still need us and a personal touch to assist them to get off on the right foot with their education.

Let the Mindset List and your own observations give you a sense of where these young students are coming from. Work with them to some extent on THEIR terms, educating them about the best way to do things while acknowledging that many of them are digital natives and need things explained in a way that makes sense to them.

Best of luck with the new school year!

Getting ideas to stick…

August 14, 2013

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Photo courtesy of Amazon

I just read Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.  I liked many of the ideas in this book, and how they can help me to improve how I teach our students and inform our faculty and make the concepts they need to know “stick” with them.

Anyone who has to talk about library resources and databases knows that it is quite easy for this subject to bore the audience.  So, how do we get the audience’s attention and make our message resonate with them once we leave the room?

The Heath brothers have developed the following acronym for how to make ideas stick: SUCCES.

S   Simple

U   Unexpected

C   Concrete

C   Credible

E   Emotional

S   Story

Not every message has to have every element, but these essential components can help to keep your message in the forefront of a person’s mind.

In the conclusion, the Heaths lay out how you have to use the above elements to make something stick; you must make your audience:

1. Pay attention (Use the Unexpected)

2. Understand and remember (Use the Concrete examples)

3. Agree/believe (Establish your Credibility)

4. Care (Use Emotion)

5. Be able to act on it (Use a Story)

How can I incorporate these into a presentation where we are discussing our face to face and online services?  Below are my ideas:

  • Tell the simple, core message as a question: once I introduce myself and say what I am going to talk about, ask the question “what’s in it for you?” (this may use the Unexpected in a small way.) Then answer: first, we provide continual support for your curriculum, and second, we link students with the resources they need to make them successful in your class.  We do this all seamlessly, through both face to face and online venues.  This uses the S (Simple) factor.
  • Show that “This is your library”–point out the picture on the screen of our physical library, but also show my smart phone and a laptop (or the computer) and also highlight me as a physical resource.  This uses the Concrete, so they realize that the library is not just the physical library, but we can be anywhere we are needed.
  • We are helping students over 70 hours per week, in person, online, via chat, with skills that help them become lifelong learners.  Encouraging students to use the library and our services can mean the difference between success and failure for these students.  Bottom line: Our services, which give this support where and when you need it, will enhance a student’s success.  This is an Emotional way to get to the audience.

We will see how these ideas work, and whether they “stick” with the audience, or at the very least make the presentation more interesting.

Made to Stick also stresses how you have to be aware of the world around you, and observe and FIND the stories and ideas that you can use.  As stories tend to be one of the strongest connections that people remember, this can be a path I take in the future once I gather these stories to make the concepts stay with students and faculty long after I leave the classroom.

Take a look at this book and test drive the concepts to make your message more meaningful!

Wikimedia commons

Wikimedia commons

I really liked this article from LinkedIn by Daniel Goleman: Three Must-Haves for Team Creativity.  Having just finished the planning portion of a project at work, I can attest to the author’s premise that these three Must-Haves are crucial:

  • Autonomy
  • Resources
  • Time

The author states that there should be clear goals, but that people have a sense of control over how those goals are accomplished, which speaks to allowing for autonomy.  For our project, we had five people on the planning committee who were given permission by administration to determine our goals and the steps to accomplish them.  We felt ownership of the project, but looked at the big picture with our colleagues, students, and faculty in mind. Administration weighed in and suggested, but showed confidence in our process and our decisions.

Being given the resources to accomplish our goals is also key.  You can have a great project, but if you don’t have the resources to make it successful, you should rethink and retool.  From the beginning, our administration let us know what resources we would have (administration support, staffing, priority) and would not have (money, marketing budget.) We were able to work within these parameters and come up with some creative ways to overcome obstacles.

The greatest gift we have been given is time.  We scheduled regular meetings during our work day and were encouraged to work on the project in between other duties.  The planning committee was also able to make clear that we wanted to give the project a fair chance at success by assessing over at least a couple of semesters.  Since this is something new for our college and library, having the understanding that success may be determined over a longer period of time (time for it to “catch-on” with faculty and students) takes some of the pressure off and allows for true evaluation.

Un addition to Goleman’s must-haves, I would like to add these:

  • Mutual Respect
  • Effective Communication

These two must-haves are intimately entwined.  When you have several people on a planning committee, you need to keep in mind that there will be different ways to think about a topic, and different paths to accomplishing a goal or objective (this is really the strength of a group.) Communicating clearly means not just “hearing” what the other person is saying, but “listening” in a way that allows you to truly understand them and make them feel understood.  No one should walk away from a meeting feeling disrespected.  If there are tensions, the group should be open and honest enough to express what those tensions and feelings are, and to discuss and acknowledge them.  I believe that our group worked so well together because, although everyone at times had different points of view, each brought a talent to the table and spoke respectfully.

During our project, I believe that everyone’s creativity blossomed.  Because all the right tools were there, we could brainstorm, collaborate, discuss, argue, dismiss, and explain each issue as we progressed.  Our meetings provided a place of safety to express a viewpoint and be heard.  We now have all the pieces in place to begin implementing a successful year with this project and have built-in enough flexibility to change as necessary.

Without autonomy, resources, time, mutual respect, and effective communication, planning would have been tedious and uncomfortable, rather than the invigorating process that really brought us to a better understanding about the project, our colleagues, and ourselves.