Yesterday I got an email from the Georgia Tech online education Coursera MOOC explaining why it was important that people signed up for groups. I felt it was slightly patronising to start off with, but made particularly so because I received it a while after I'd clicked "Assign Me A Group". The reason I hadn't signed up for any groups was simple: the course opened on Monday and the group signup had crashed before I had a chance to look at it, and I didn't have the time to look at it again until Saturday, because I had a very hectic working week (28 and a half student contact hours, plus planning, marking and reporting). So I'd been quite annoyed to log in on Saturday morning hoping to do my week's MOOC work and find that I couldn't do my week's homework because I wasn't in a group.
The course has now been postponed indefinitely, presumably because there were too many people in certain groups and too many people without groups. Overall, their approach seems massively shortsighted -- the original problem with group signups was that they'd done it with a Google Docs spreadsheet with wide open permissions, meaning it could all too easily get mucked up. A spreadsheet can't handle that sort of concurrency anyway.
Then there was the links to the videos that had been uploaded at way too high a resolution and took too long to download.
Overall, for a course specifically teaching online education, the organisers appear to have had a spectacularly poor grasp of the technological side of things.
I signed up for another MOOC on online education, again with Coursera, but from the University of Edinburgh: Elearning and Digital Cultures. This also opened on Monday, and I didn't get a chance to look at it until Saturday, when I saw that the instructions for the week included watching a bunch of short films before tuning into a live webcast with the tutor on Friday. They didn't give enough notice, and it really misses the point of global online education if you have to watch at a certain time, even though the segment is not interactive.
So I'm getting pretty cynical about MOOCs and the woolly thinking and poor planning surrounding them. So thank heavens for Edinburgh University's Introduction to Philosophy, featuring a scruffy looking bloke in a poor-fitting jumper talking to a camera. It's finally something I feel I can relate to. (And to think I only signed up because I saw the Edinburgh logo, and there was no other Edinburgh courses at the time!)