I am currently enrolled in two MOOCs, and recently completed a couple of others. I am impressed with the increased quality of MOOCs in the past two years. I remain uninterested in the naysayers who feel MOOCs threaten their hegemony in higher education or other doomsayer predictions. Rather, I continue to see MOOCs as a supplement to other forms of education and an excellent means for micro-credentials. The four courses I am taking or recently completed that benefit my current employment include:
- Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923 taught out of the University of Dublin is the first MOOC I have taken from Future Learn. I took the course out of basic interest – the lifelong learning that is in vogue among us baby boomers – and was impressed with the video, text and resource offerings quality. The course was meaty. Had I run through just all the online resources provided, the quality and quantity would have exceeded a typical upper level UG course. I was also pleased that the discussion boards were far superior to my previous experiences. I paid $40.00 for the certificate, simply because I wanted to support what I considered a quality offering. Given the demographics of who takes MOOCs, it might prove a worthwhile marketing strategy to promote verified certificates beyond proof of accomplishment, to include those who support the process. This MOOC demonstrated to me the simplicity in putting together quality and engaging content that is not beyond the means of a small institution on a limited budget.
- I am currently enrolled in another Future Learn MOOC Behind the Scenes of the Twenty-First Century Museum taught out of the University of Leicester’s Museum Studies Graduate Program. I registered for this course because it is the first MOOC I have seen that specifically deals with museum practices. Initially I was rather skeptical about the course relevance. I anticipated that the content would be very introductory in scope and content. I was completely wrong. By far this is my favorite MOOC taken to date. The course content is excellent. Several of the video lectures and online readings will show up on my syllabus for the Museum Practices graduate seminar I will teach again this fall. The lecturers include individuals whose texts I have assigned for the past five years in class. Perhaps most enjoyable are the discussion boards. I have exchanged links, ideas, experiences with professionals and students from South Africa, Finland, the UK and the US. The discussion is excellent. I have learned a great deal that will be applied in my professional practice both in museums and in the classroom. I am getting more out of this MOOC than most professional meetings I attend. This course certainly demonstrates the possibilities of MOOCs in continuing education contexts.
- I completed most of the Store Design, Visual Merchandising and Shopper Marketing MOOC from Iversity. My reason for taking the course was to get ideas for the store in the museum where I am the director. The staff member who runs the store also enrolled in the course. We both agreed the MOOC provided some useful information, but most of the content was not relevant to our specific interests. To me, this MOOC was similar to the first one’s I took a couple of years ago – basically a talking head, conveniently promoting his text each week, and those miserable multiple guess questions where one needs to select 3 of 4 poorly worded correct answers – that I quickly give up in frustration. I only completed four of the six weeks because of other commitments and a waning interest.
- I am currently enrolled in Content Strategy for Professionals 2: Expanding Your Content’s Impact and Reach from Northwestern University on the coursera platform. Twice I had started Part 1 of this MOOC and quit half-way through because of the case study (something about selling a brand of suits in China) that I just could not get my head around. In the Part 2 of the MOOC the case study assignments are based on the participants institution/business. I am thoroughly enjoying the content and process. This MOOC is extremely helpful to me as we continue to develop our museum audience. I find the MOOC even more essential as I think through my responsibilities with PIARA, the nonprofit I work with in Peru. The course description includes: “In this, the second Content Strategy MOOC, participants will go deeper. They will learn actionable ways to grow internal and external audiences. They will deepen their understanding about those target individuals and will use a host of known and emerging tools and social networks to meaningfully reach them. They will also learn how to measure and improve the impact of their efforts with quantitative and qualitative metrics.“
As a practicing museum professional and university professor, the above are how I find MOOCs integral to my career. I am particularly impressed with the increased quality of MOOC offerings over the past couple of years, especially as exemplified by Future Learn. So far as I can tell, the dire warnings from the nattering nabobs of negativism about the evils of MOOCs remain without merit.