Stay the course

1aI signed up for a Berklee/Coursera songwriting course by Pat Pattison, mainly because I’m trying to figure out how to make music. That, and because it’s free. But it also gives me an opportunity to examine a so-called “xMOOC” first hand. Speaking of hands, the talking-head lecturer does this thing with his that’s either a westside gang signal or an inside-out Vulcan salute.

The course interface is a kind of LMS, which probably helps the people putting the course together keep things organized. It seems limiting to me – it doesn’t facilitate learner interaction all that well. There’s a section for discussion forums with half a dozen sub-forums and numerous threads, which could get messy quickly. Some splinter groups have already formed on Facebook, as learners take matters into their own hands.

Assessments are done in three ways. There are quizzes built into the video lectures, where the lecture pauses for a multiple choice question which asks, in effect, “What did I just say?” There are also multiple choice quizzes for each lecture. Some of the questions go beyond the usual recall-type questions to make you apply concepts from the lectures. Then there are peer-reviewed assignments. I have yet to try one of these so I don’t have much to say about it, except that I’m doing this for me so self-assessment is the only assessment that matters. I don’t really give a flying leap about what I get on their quizzes.

The meat of the course is the video lectures. I’m really not fond of these things. I’d much rather spend a few minutes reading the content than have to watch someone talk to a camera for up to an hour. A recent study shows that I’m not alone. I found that the closed captions for the lectures could be downloaded, so I took those and put them together with screenshots of whatever graphics went along with the videos and made a google site out of them. I posted the link in two of the Facebook groups for the course, and many people are grateful. It might be interesting to see what kind of site stats I get for it.

In all fairness, Pat Pattison is a good speaker. As a songwriter, he knows something about using language and voice to convey information beyond the mere text of his lectures.

Now I have to ask myself: Why do I dislike video lectures if I enjoyed listening in to the Hardboiled course last semester? I think it’s because the class recordings had interaction. Even though I was only peripherally a part of the discussions, not really a participant, the recordings captured a moment in time as it happened. But a recorded lecture, more often than not, is an exercise in inefficiency. Having been a production manager in a previous life, such exercises make me recoil.

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