Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Future Learn Climate Change MOOC

The University of Exeter are running a Climate Change MOOC as part of the Future Learn consortium headed by the UK Open University. The course is eight weeks long, shorter than the typical university course (and many MOOCs) but much longer than Open Universities Australia's four week "Open2Study" MOOCs. Future Learn has a minimalist web design, with a white background and light grey text. This seems to have been designed for smart phones and tablets but works okay on a desktop computer.

There is just one column of content and minimal use of ruled lines for layout. I found hypertext links hard to find due to the lack of any underlining or other highlighting of them. There is a calendar across the first page of the course, numbering the weeks and showing the dates. This is important to students who want to know where the course is up to.

As with other MOOCs there is an emphasis on video. While transcripts of the videos are available, they are in the form of PDF files which have to be separately downloaded. This is annoying and seems unnecessary, as the text of the transcript is short, it might as well be displayed on screen under where the video is accessed, to give the student a preview of what is in the video.

There are discussion forums which, like the rest of the site, are very minimalist, but usable. I had some difficulty with the weekly multiple choice quiz, as after selecting an option and being told I was wrong and offered a second chance, all the options were shown ticked and I could not see how to change it. Also many of the questions seemed to be simply testing of memory, such as what "IPPC" stands for (which is not at all important to the topic of climate change).

As with other MOOCS, I wonder who the course is aimed at and why University of Exeter is providing this service. Is this intended to be a replacement for courses offered at the university, which seems unlikely given the very elementary nature of the material (more like a school course than a university one)? Is this a university extension course to provide entertainment and education for the general public? Is it a way to promote the university’s expertise and real for-fee courses? I am not sure what is more worrying, that  universities are investing resources in MOOCs and refusing to say why they are doing it, or that they don't know why they are doing MOOCs and have no way to measure if these are successful.

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