Short Take: The Problem With MOOC

Rachel Barrera, the course assistant at the Knight Center for Journalism has been sending me dozens of automated e-mails telling me that the course on Infographics I’d signed up is going full steam and I should join soon, lest I get left behind.

The course is coming to an end and I’m yet to finish the first class. The point I’m trying to make here is that Mooc, or Massive Open Online Course, is great and e-learning is the new e-commerce and all that. But it’s not for people like me.

The course has been extended by a few more days and I’m assuming its because there are way too many laggards like me.

Self learning, simply put, requires a lot of determination and perseverance. Not only that, it is easy to just close the laptop and forget that there is a class you need to complete.

Now I’m an adult, fully aware that if I don’t learn how journalism works in the era of technology, my career is practically over. Even then, in the daily toil, I tend to ignore all that great learning material out there.

Now think about children. Given the choice, would they sit and study online? Or play?

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What I’m leading to is that people sometimes need to be coerced to study things that may not be of immediate use. And with Mooc, it’s just too easy to ignore.

On the other hand, I’ve been going to Codeacademy repeatedly and picking up a few lessons on web programming, from where I left. Why so? The obvious answer could be that I like this more than infographics. But that’s not it.

Codeacademy, and similarly designed courses, are made up of very short lessons. They give me instant gratification and say nice things like I’m on my way to becoming Mark Zuckerberg, a great programmer. I can try out what I’ve learned right in the browser and see how things work realtime. And those badges I earn, vain it may seem, is helping.

Then I went ahead and signed up for the famed Khan Academy. The experience was similar. The idea is to get you into the whole thing so smoothly and easily that you start learning before you know it.

Would love to hear some thoughts.

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