I’ve been taking the Coursera course Fundamentals of Online Education for the last week. I nearly said fortnight because it seems like longer and it seems like a lot has happened yet at the same time nothing has happened. The course was supposed to last 6 weeks but today (now yesterday), without any prior warning, the plug was pulled and the course unceremoniously closed. As a number of people on Twitter said, “Wow! Just wow!”. It’s difficult to know what any of the supposed 41000 enrollees are thinking because the site is shut. No one has anywhere to discuss or comment on their feelings or thoughts about the closure. Well we have e.g. our blogs, Twitter, FaceBook, but we are disconnected from each other. No community had developed in the week that the course was open and even in FaceBook, there was little widespread engagement.
Why did this happen? How could a course offered by a company that only offers courses to cohorts of many thousands allow this course to get through their quality control? (I’m making an assumption that there is a quality control process and that Coursera turn their experience gained over the last year or so to helping new courses get off on the right foot. I’m not sure whether it is more generous to think that they have failed in quality control or that they didn’t fail because they omitted it altogether.)
The course was supposed to teach the Fundamentals of Online Education and I think that it failed to do that in at least 3 ways; the course design, the pedagogical approach, and the materials used. It’s difficult to separate these out so I’ll describe the sequence of events.