May 8, 2017
Learn to Code with FreeCodeCamp - a "sort-of-MOOC" specifically to learn programming
FreeCodeCamp is an open online learning platform, where you sign up to learn coding in various programming languages. I started the course last autumn and I was excited by the fun I had while learning programming.
It is basically only one course that can take years to complete, but within this course you have some smaller mile stones for example the front-end-development part at the very beginning followed by a back-end-development part etc. At the end of these bigger mile-stones you can even get your certificate that you finished this section of the course. Now every section consists of many smaller learning steps, where you get some input and you have to try something out for yourself. When finished correctly you may go on to the next instruction-step.
So although the course is structured in a rather strict fashion, I still consider it as a mixture of an xMOOC and a cMOOC because it also has this communicative and knowledge sharing aspect about it. This aspect is there because it has it‘s own forum, where you can ask any questions when you are stuck in a challenge or you just want to share your experience in a certain programming language with your fellow learners or whatever. Furthermore in many cities like Vienna a group of people, learning on freecodecamp formed a facebook-group that meets up at least once a month. At these meetings usually someone gives a talk about some new developments that are happening in this scene and then people discuss their experiences and help each other with problems they might have. So there is this social and communicative aspect about the learning process within freecodecamp that makes it so interesting apart from the fun that comes with it.
So I really enjoyed learning in this environment and I will definitely start again, when this semester is over and I have a bit more time.
Concerning the improvement of education, it definitely depends on the design of the course, it‘s discipline, where it will be implemented and the goal it pursues. Because not every course design, from a pedagogical perspective, is suitable for every discipline. Additionally everyone likes to learn in a different way, thus a is no one-fits-all custom designed online learning platform or course wouldn‘t make sense. Nevertheless I still think that, if designed and applied suitably for a certain learning programme (be it school, university, further education or free time), it can definitely improve educational programmes and the education system as a whole. I am not sure though, how the educational institutions and the MOOC websites or platforms should work together. Is it better, if the school or university leaves the course administration and execution to the platform and only cares about the input and grading etc. or is it better if they take the platforms as an example to create their own platform.
It is not easy to list a set of characteristics, how a MOOC course should look like from my point of view, because as I said, it depends on what you want to learn. For learning to code, I would say FreeCodeCamp is the perfect example. As in this one, you learn something practical it is essential, that you have to try and create and work on a project yourself. I also consider it very important, that they build a community via the forum and the facebook group.
For a topic or discipline that is more theoretical like cultural studies, history or whatsoever, the pedagogical design will have to look different. For example I also participate in a course on FutureLearn about the cultural heritage of Hong Kong, which is rather theoretical, but it is still great fun, because the creators of the course (City University of Hong Kong) applied virtual reality videos and images toghether with interviews and articles within the course. Some Information repeats itself, to better memorize the input and at the end of each section, there is a little quiz. So I would say a mixture of different teaching methods can help a lot in making a course (even theoretical ones) interesting and worth it‘s time.