Originally published on the Digichamps blog by Ashley Stout, Amanda Herron and Hannah Watts (MSc Students and MOOC Mentors)
The final countdown to the University of Southampton’s annual Digital Marketing MOOC is underway. As such, a few of this year’s Mentors have shared their experiences from last year to help prepare the new cohort.
Prior to attending the University of Southampton for my Digital Marketing MSc, I had participated in massive open online courses (MOOCs) and always found them valuable. Integrating the MOOC into my classroom learning continued to provide the same value I had received before: international collaboration and community learning. However, the opportunity to pair the MOOC course with in-person lectures created added value by encouraging a level of deeper analysis of my opinions and enabling me to understand a wider range of perspectives, all while challenging me to support my opinions to a greater extent through academic research.
I don’t believe in hindering the world from receiving great minds based on having the financial means and opportunity to learn in the ‘right’ university. Attendees of MOOCs aren’t receiving a ‘free’ education – it takes their own blood, sweat, and tears (or at least intense organisational skills and dedication) to obtain their goals. A degree is still valuable and MOOCs provide an opportunity for both current university students and informal learners alike to collaborate and challenge each other. I see the rise of MOOCs as an opportunity for students attending university to achieve a higher standard of learning through access to academic articles that are unavailable to the outside world. Incorporating the MOOC into my course provided an opportunity to evaluate what learning means to me and conclude that University is not about privilege, but about distinction.
Unlike Amanda, I had no previous involvement with MOOCs before my participation in the Digital Marketing course last year. The concept itself intrigued me, as the thought of “free higher education” was quite different to my experiences up to that point. However, don’t let the “free” aspect of this course fool you. The topics and concepts covered in the three-week course actually turned out to be a good representation of the fundamentals covered in our year-long MSc Digital Marketing degree (which cost just a smidge more).
Once the course started, I’ll admit it felt as if I had been living under a rock because the sheer amount of people joining us in the MOOC was astounding…
This level of participation had to be my favorite aspect of the MOOC. Because our fellow course-mates were so widespread, we were exposed to a variety of ideas and experiences in the discussions. I found that interacting with people from cultures so different to my own really helped to expand my views and opinions.
My one major piece of advice to new participants would be to get involved as much as possible! I’ve found that disagreeing and discussing with others is one of the best ways to grow. Don’t be afraid to introduce a new idea or (politely) argue during the course; you’ll probably find that your fellow participants are more open-minded than you might think!
The opportunity to take part in a MOOC as part of a formal assessment was a really exciting start to the MSc; not only did it spark and encourage discussion both online and off – it meant we were engaged in relevant topics and debates from the word go. Like Amanda, I was fairly familiar with MOOCs prior to this experience – and I too was enthused by the opportunity to integrate the online-offline learning experience. By doing so, I grasped a real understanding of how online activities can completely transform the dynamics of traditional classroom-based learning.
I found the game-like design of the MOOC particularly motivating as it helped and encouraged me to achieve the course goals. For example, the colour-changing progress bar meant I could better manage and control the learning process – I loved being able to visualise my progress and as a result of this I became more determined to stay on track and keep going. In fact, the visual, interactive elements of the course, like the map shared by Ashley and the short, sharp videos, were a great way to keep me interested and engaged throughout the course.
Having said this, in the early stages of the MOOC – voicing my opinion and sharing knowledge and ideas was something I found particularly daunting. The thought of contributing, as opposed to quietly consuming, pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I soon realised how much more I could get out of the experience by actively engaging in discussions with others.
What I soon came to realise was that the MOOC consisted of a community of people with shared interests, willing and keen to engage in conversation around marketing topics, from all walks of life. It highlighted the importance of finding the right people, on the right platforms to connect with.
Ultimately, I felt the blended approach meant there was a much greater level of student engagement – as we all had reason to exercise and experiment the knowledge gained in class. MOOCing is a great way to learn, meet others with shared interests and develop greater understanding about a subject in a more fun and interactive way.
If you would like to join the Digital Marketing MOOC you can register by following this link. The course begins 17 October.