Yesterday the CalArts / Coursera Site-Dance Instructional Team: Stephan Koplowitz and TA’s Jen Hutton, Anne C. Moore & Kerrie Schroeder and classmate Andrew, broadcast a live Google Hangout to answer questions, discuss the course, and think about Site-Dance.

photo of Stephan Koplowitz in Google Hangout
Stephan Koplowitz

The many faces of MOOC!

Molly and I are enrolled in both the Site Dance class from CalArts / Coursera and the Practice Based Research course from Stanford / NovoED. They’re both great. But so different. On the platforms I really appreciate the way NovoED makes student-student contact and interaction so much easier. But Coursera actually makes peer review a pleasure vs the dread that it is on NovoED.

Jen Hutton in a Google Hangout
Jen Hutton

The instructional teams are equally strong, and equally different. I don’t know why I care, but I can’t deny that it’s disappointing to pretty much never see the faculty in the PBR course. I didn’t expected any sort of 1-to-1 contact in a Massive Open Online Course, but I did imagine that we’d at least see the faculty for a few minutes a week in their videos. Perhaps what I call “absence” is really just absence of ego. They don’t need to be front and center, or seen at all, instead giving the week over to a 10 minute video from the guest artist of the week. The guest artists have been uniformly great. Each week we’ve been invited to a new activity that has consistently inspired, explored, and revealed.

Anne C. Moore in a Google Hangout
Anne C. Moore

Office Hours?

Meanwhile, Stephan Koplowitz’ Site Dance course features at least an hour of video from him every week, and the thing I never imagined a MOOC could do, actual faculty interaction. Steve, and his TA’s Anne Moore and Kerrie Schroeder actually hold weekly office hours. Tonight they held a live Google Hangout with student questions in the forum either in advance or live. It’s remarkable the outreach this team has been so generous to provide.

Site Dance student Andrew in a google hangout
Andrew (Site Dance classmate)

Both courses have tried to find ways to extend the wonderful, but still young and limited, MOOC environments. For Site Dance it’s “The Lab” and for PBR it’s “Studio West.” The Lab uses the normal Coursera forums and is essentially an invitation to post what you’re working on and have a dialog about it. Studio West moves off NovoED to a stand alone Drupal site that is unfortunately quite anemic. Studio West is planned for a 2 year run so we can hope it becomes more full featured over time. What’s interesting about Studio West is that even though you can’t search for content or find an index of classmates nor even leave a comment on anyone’s work, it still is in fact valuable. Simply by offering one long, unfortunately not reverse-chron, scrolling page, we have the previously non-existent option of sifting through a vast image library of classmate’s work. It’s too bad we have to then go back to NovoED and look them up to learn more or contact them, but Studio West is none-the-less a missing link in the essential MOOC activity of meeting colleagues for ongoing conversation and collaboration.

Collaborate!

While very different, each of these teams has provided a remarkable experience. While the content is uniformly strong, I’ve come to believe that meeting colleagues and forming relationships that can interact, support, and collaborate beyond the 5 or 10 weeks of the course is an essential element. NovoED, Coursera, The Lab, Studio West, and ultimately we the students all need to work harder toward this end.

How can MU help you?