Introducing MOOC Reviews

In keeping with my prior question on accreditation in MOOCs, I’m starting my own one-person MOOC accreditation service. Well, not really. But I am going to start publishing reviews of the online courses I finish to try to help develop accurate reputations for MOOCs and other online courses.

First of all, there are two types of information I hope to disseminate through these course reviews:

  • Descriptions: fact-based descriptions of the structure and content of the course or MOOC.
  • Analysis: opinion-based impressions on the value and quality of the course or MOOC.

There are three audiences for these course reviews:

  • Prospective students: What will you learn? How much time will it take? How deeply will you learn it? How strong are the assessments?
  • Employers and admissions administrators: How valuable is a certificate from this course? What content can I assume the student has mastered? How certain can I be that the student completed the MOOC themselves?
  • Educators and course developers: How did the course approach grading and assignments? How was the MOOC structured? How well did the structure work? What could be improved?

Toward these ends, each review will be structured according to several categories, each with a short description of the course’s approach:

  • Structure: How is the course structured? Is the course time-locked or open? Is the course on-demand or traditional? What are the due dates?
  • Content: What topics are covered in the course? What are the units and sub-units?
  • Identity: What steps are taken to ensure that the student receiving the credit for completing the course really is the student claiming credit for the course?
  • Assessments: What assessments are required to complete the course? To what extent do those assessments demonstrate real learning?
  • Prerequisites: What prior knowledge is required to succeed in the course? What general level of education is required to be prepared for the course?

Based on these five categories, as well as other elements, I’ll then give a brief analysis of what the course means to students, prospective employers, and other educators, touching as well on the overall course experience.

Note that although some of these analyses can get into the realm of good practices and bad practices, nothing here is ever meant to negatively reflect on the courses or MOOCs themselves. Every course has strengths, every course has room for improvement, and different courses are better-suited for different kinds of learners. Not every course is intended to give students a credential that will guarantee value to a prospective school or employer: many courses are meant to be surveys or introductions, not rigorous capstones. Thus, when I say that an employer shouldn’t put much stock in a particular course appearing on an applicant’s resume, that is not a criticism of the course. These reviews are meant to describe and inform, not criticize and judge.

You can find all my course reviews under the course reviews tag on this blog.

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