?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I have a question. Could we change the “M” in MOOC stand for mini instead of massive?

I got excited, signed up and attempted my umpteenth MOOC, and failed once again!

MOOCs are On the Right Track…

I really want to love this format. Having access to instruction from the top universities that I never had a dream of affording the tuition is unbelievable.  I want to open up my laptop and learn a new programming language. I want to study a specific era in history and become an expert in it. I want to become fluent in German.I want to learn new teaching methods that will change classrooms from the best teachers in the world- AND all on my own time, at home, for free! That’s the point, right? It sounds so good. So why do I keep messing it up?

Early this spring, I signed up for a new Coursera MOOC, Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies For Your Classroom and was so excited to participate. The course started on July 29th with incredible educators from MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art) in New York.  Since signing up in March, I changed jobs and my schedule completely flip flopped so that week turned into one of my busiest throughout the summer. Despite being very well intentioned, I just didn’t have to time to keep up with the first week of the course. By the time I logged in, 6 days late, I had missed hundreds of introductions from all the other online students and the discussion forum was in full swing. It would have take me days to try and get caught up. Darn it!

MOOCs are Getting Better…

But what I did find was some incredible course content, divided into great chunks that were very easily digestible and taught me a huge amount with just an investment of a few hours. The course exposed me to some incredible resources that I read through a few times and will bookmark to keep in my own personal library. Most of all, the course convinced me I need to get to New York and spend some time at MoMA, asap!

MOOCs are Not Going Away…

The fact is MOOCs are growing and change the landscape of education, regardless of the critics and the naysayers. From my observation, the quality of the content included in the MOOCs I’ve signed up for during the past few years has increased exponentially! In the early years, it seemed to be someone just linking a bunch of old content or PDFs that seemed to be about the appropriate content, but didn’t make sense to a learner new to the subject.  In the more recent MOOCs, I am finding relevant and interesting content from different venues beyond textbooks… there are videos, current articles and blog posts that truly use the power of open sourced content, brought together by experts in the field facilitating the course. To see this type of development in just a few short years is very exciting.

But here is where my question fits in. Could we not make it “massive”? The “massive” just doesn’t work for me. I go through a few of those online introductions and I get lost. I start to try and sift through the discussion forums, I feel completely overwhelmed.

MOOCs Need Some Tweaks…

What if, once the MOOC content was posted, I could gather my own group to take the class? I value the time I spend developing my PLN and have built relationships with great colleagues across the globe.  It could be so valuable for me to be able to get a small group of us together, find a time that works for us and take the course together. Introductions wouldn’t have to be made, I would know them already. In fact, I would love to try and gather my classmates specifically for who they are, either by people I knew or by word of mouth throughout my PLN. I would love to find good mix of teachers from different levels… or maybe the course would be better if I could find all middle school teachers… or maybe it’d be perfect to have  a few administrators, or great veteran who has lived through different eras and has advice to offer.

To keep the number manageable, like maybe 10-12 (not more than could join a Google hangout) would make the discussion forums completely doable- easy to follow and contribute to, turning them into an invaluable resource. A smaller number would also allow the timeline for the course to be much more personalized, definitely increasing the likelihood of me completing the course.

My point being, the content is up and accessible via many different MOOC platforms (I just mention Coursera because it is the one I have the most experience with). Why not take away the timeline barriers, by letting students start and work at their own pace? Adding flexibility and the motivation of being able to work through the course with other people you have a relationship with and know would not only up my chances of finishing a MOOC but would make me want to sign up for more!