Well, it was bound to happen. Someone was going to crash and burn. Woe is me that it fell to the online instructional design cavalry at Georgia Tech. As an instructional designer, I can say it’s a bit of a black eye for the profession. What really happened? I really, really want to know, mostly to make sure it doesn’t happen to me or to my institution should we ever pursue this path. It seemed from the outside looking in, that Coursera was making a stable place where tens of thousands could safely log in and work without the system crashing. Is that not the case? Seems with the lineup of Coursera owners and investors (lots of brain power, it’s not like they don’t understand how the Internet works) that it should work pretty well.
One or the other, Georgia Tech or Coursera is going to have to come completely clean on all of this and reconcile with the disappointed participants. Or not, they’re actually under no obligation to do so. I’d be very surprised however, if the President of Georgia Tech doesn’t see a need to clear the air.
All that being said, nobody paid anything, so, sometimes, you do in fact get what you pay for, which in this case, is nothing. It’s a botched experiment of enormous proportion (well enormous this week, maybe less enormous by next week when we all forget about it). Kick in the pants for George Tech’s reputation and Coursera’s as well.
What really troubles me about it is the idea that higher education online learning professionals simply didn’t think the entire equation through to the end. Free or not free, if you’re in the online course design game, you need to understand the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish with these MOOC thingies. Was it a surprise to you that tens of thousands of learners signed up and all started on the same day? Had you not thought through your instructional strategies to accommodate the numbers you knew were going to come? Have you not read the MOOC hype of the last 12 months cover to cover daily? I have, which is why I have advised the institution I work for (when they’ve asked me) not to jump into this business without a crystal clear plan that has been crash tested nineteen times.
I also really don’t understand the loud whining (magnified by thousands of voices or so in each course) I’m reading by Coursera participants about having to self-organize into discussion groups. Just get it done. You’re all (mostly) adults checking this stuff out for a reason, consider your reason and align with a group that has a similar reason and get talking and meeting and networking and learning and creating and sharing and learning some more. Surely those of you approaching this genre were not expecting to be spoon fed learning by one on one relationships with instructors. Were you? Find some peeps and your peeps will help you. Help some, and some more will be helped. That’s how it works.
Also, if you’re in a course and from your perspective it’s not useful, state your case (so the course builders can learn) and then leave. Don’t waste your own time for Pete’s sake!