The MOOC Experience

In September, I completed a MOOC in Social Psychology with the Wesleyan University (USA) via Coursera and I’m pleased to report that I passed with distinction (91%). So what was the course like?

Well, I expected a MOOC to be a fairly light course, but it proved fairly demanding: each week comprised several videos to view (about 2 hours altogether); assigned readings of no less than 30 to 50 pages (to be read on screen due to copyrights); and one marked assignment, some fairly quick and easy, others taking another couple of hours to prepare. Due to the number of students, the assignments requiring individual review were checked by peers (each of us had to review 5 assignments). I was initially sceptical about this approach but it seemed to work quite well after all, and it was interesting to see not only what others had submitted, but also what impact the various cultural differences within the group had on the presentation and content of the work.

The videos were easy to follow and understand, the pace was good and Prof. Scott Plous injected a smidgen of humour, which kept the course light-hearted. Many different topics were covered, yet offering a good insight rather than just skimming the surface, with videos of experiments and other detailed and illustrative examples. Aside from the lectures, there was a forum area for students to discuss the course content, assignments, experiences, or simply to share thoughts triggered by the lectures.

The assignments and exams were not compulsory; you could follow the course without aiming for a certificate of achievement. For those aiming for the certificate, the points were split evenly between the assignments and a final exam, with an overall score of 70% required to pass and 90% for distinction. 5,000 students took the exam, 3,000 (60%) passed, including 420 with distinction (14% of those who passed or 8.4% of the total).

Overall, the course was pretty substantial and deserves recognition. I would certainly recommend it and will keep an eye on MOOC programmes for future courses.

Last minute addition: The BBC published this article this morning on the final assignment of the course.


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