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KEN STYNER

My Professional Portfolio

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My MOOC: How to change the world

On Coursea through Wesleyan University

I participated in the class “How To Change The World”, offered by Wesleyan University through Coursera. I uses social psychology to discuss how to effect global change. I selected this course because I am very interested in social activism and global politics, and I feel such activism has been lacking in my life of late. Wesleyan is a school with a great reputation, and I felt it would be a good platform for learning about this.

The experience: The course runs for 6 weeks. The class is set up in 3-5 twenty minute lectures per week that occur as a sort fireside chat. The first unit was on Hardin’s “Tragedy of the commons”. The professor first gave a lecture of about twenty minutes followed by a brief online “check in” quiz. Sometime the lectures consisted of a discussion between the main professor and another staff member. At first I thought the course would be just like an in-person class, with lectures, but it was more like watching discussions between the professor and other experts. You could then participate in a forum to discuss the lecture with other participants. Grading was handled by peer evaluated papers that were centered around how the lecture applies to your own community. After you submitted the paper, you then reviewed three classmate’s papers. The essays were short, only 500 words or less. To verify it was you, you hade to type the same phrase twice for the typing patterns, they could apparently identify you were typing it. They also took your picture.

The three peer evaluations you graded on a Likert scale of 1-3 based on the criteria of Argument, Evidence and Exposition (quality of writing). 3 or more evaluations were used to assess your work.

Overall, the experience was good! It was really nice to be able to “sit in” or discussions by a well informed professor and other experts in the field. The lecturer was well chosen, and spoke in a conversational manner which brought you into the topic. The topic was very interesting and presented in a clear and well organized manner. I am looking forward to the rest of this course. The work for the course so far has not been too overbearing. I am looking forward to the upcoming lectures in the class. I find it a wonder that top universities are offering, for free or very reduced cost (This course costs $49 for a certificate) access to some of the best lecturers and subjects they have. It does not lead to a degree but that is really not the point.

The last MOOC I took, in 2010 on Java Data Structures for my Advanced AP Computers class, was structured much differently. It was just the lectures with no forum of peer feedback. I am glad to see how changes have been made to make the experience more interactive and allow the student to have a voice. I really hope the MOOC format continues t improve in the future, as there is so much potential to allow access to learning that was originally only available to the academic elite. It is truly a democratization of education!