Thoughts on NoirMOOC

It was suggested in the NoirMOOC forum that we should do a post-mortem examination of the course, as a good group of the participants were there as much to learn about MOOCs as for their interest in the subject matter. I think it’s a good idea, although I’m used to having those discussions happen throughout a course. Unfortunately I missed the hangout session, but I thought I’d post some thoughts anyway.

A question was asked about the levels of participation and persistence. This is a common query, and often brought up as an issue, but I don’t think it’s really a big deal. Everyone keys in on the Massiveness of MOOCs, but the real revolutionary element is the Openness. People can go in and out, and participate as they choose, making of the course what they will. I may be counted as a dropout or a failure in many of the MOOCs I’ve joined because I’m not very interested in many of their assessments. Too often it’s assessment for the sake of assessing – just a hoop for people to jump through. While educators should consider the question in all cases, in an open environment it is especially important: What does the assessment do for the learner? If all I get out of the experience is a score, it’s just busywork to me.

This wasn’t much of a problem with the NoirMOOC, as it was more about activities and discussions than quizzes and tests. But, going back to the Open idea, I think the Canvas environment was unhelpful. The LMS is like a box – confining and limiting, and not entirely open. I prefer MOOCs that work as aggregators to those that function as boxes. They let us work in our own spaces, and give us the freedom to bring more to the course and make more out of it. We could be making timelines and concept maps and videos and any number of other things to help us make sense of the material we’re working through and share our understandings with our fellow participants, but there’s no room for it inside the box. Of course, an LMS provides a comfortably familiar environment, similar to a f2f or online class, with traditional students/teacher roles. There’s something to be said for being comfortable. There’s also something to be said for being challenging.

I don’t mean for all that to sound negative. I thought the course was a good experience. OTTO was great. It would be even better if it was a tool open to anyone to use. Everybody’s contributions to the forums and Twitter were great as well

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One Response to Thoughts on NoirMOOC

  1. Thanks for posting this! We did miss you on the post-mortem. I love that you focused on “openness” in MOOCs. I think that is an under-explored area, since most of the time I believe “open” in the world of MOOCs is considering mostly in terms of “open enrollment” and less about open source, open access, and open scholarship. The MOOC can be truly disruptive if it acts more like a community and less like a course. To me, I really wanted to bring students together to share their knowledge, and to leave behind a new knowledge object, which in this case are the video annotations in OTTO which remain open on the web (more on that in a bit).

    As the designer and instructor of #NoirMOOC, I sought to focus on the idea of supporting a massive community with authentic projects and assessments. As anyone who took my course will attest, I am not a big fan of quizzes or machine graded assignments. I prefer tools like Twitter, Storify, Pinterest, and OTTO to crowdsource, curate, and share ideas that enable peer-to-peer learning and instructor-to-student learning (I think both models need to be operative in a learning environment)

    Moreover, I would love to design an online platform that rewrote the rules about learning management systems in an open learning environment. I think that we tend to fall prey to some engrained ideas about learning architecture even when we are engaging in experimental courses. But there is always a balancing act needed due to students who require a certain amount of scaffolding/platform stability and those students who are already digitally literate and want to create new tools and new interactions on the fly. I felt that tension in #NoirMOOC because some students were taking their first film course and others had master degrees in the subject. With such a range of learners, it is hard to find that sweet spot between convention and innovation – but hopefully you could sense that I was searching for one.

    Finally, OTTO (Open Text Tool for Online video) is an open tool, and is going to remain open after #NoirMOOC closes. OTTO was just being piloted in the MOOC, but it is still online. Anyone who wishes to, can log on and share their annotations at

    My goals with OTTO are to continue to share it publicly and try to get some traction toward collaborative video annotation in film studies. OTTO is currently in its alpha phase of development, but based on feedback from students who have used it, I am seeking to raise additional grant money to keep developing it. Please stay in contact with me about OTTO if you are interested in the project.

    Thanks again for being a part of #NoirMOOC!

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