May 10, 2017

OpioidX - edX's MOOC on the opioid crisis in America

In order to make sense of MOOCs in a practical sense - and not just in theory by reading the to-be-carefully-enjoyed article by Sir John Daniel (2012) titled in a similar fashion - it is in my understanding crucial to actually engage with a course offered online and taking an interested, yet critical stance towards it. Keeping this healthy distance is absolutely necessary, as the realm of MOOCs seems at first glance to be a world of infinite expertise, offering academically framed knowledge free of charge and just a few clicks away. However,  this 'new' form of educating the masses has its downsides as well, for instance when it comes down to evaluating the progress of course participants and, in an even more fundamental sense, offering the course participants an interesting and inspiring learning experience, sparking enough motivation in them to 'walk the whole distance' of the course.
Anyhow, I claimed to make practical sense of a particular MOOC in this piece, didn't I?
So first, I want to highlight that my choice of course and plattform was a strategic one -  I strived to pick a topic I have a lot of assumptions about, but at the same time no substantial knowledge of. Further, I was in particular interested in a MOOC offered by one of the 'Ivy league' universities to get a  glimpse behind the curtain of one of the most acclaimed universities of the world.
In consequence, I picked OpioidX, a course on the opioid crisis in America, offered by Harvard University via the plattform edX.


Fig. 1: 'Setup' for abusing Oxycontin, a pharmaceutical opioid with built-in active agent retardation (commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OxyContin_Setup.jpg) 


In its core, the course consists of three engagement tools for the student: poll questions carving out the students' personal view on the opioid crisis, e. g. Do you know someone who died of an opioid overdose?; exam/reflection questions which assess what the student has learned, e. g. Based on what you saw in the video, which of the following non-medication options could you try before taking opioids?; and video material, which consists out of lecture videos and first-person experience accounts by patients addicted to opioids, providing so-to-say the information input about the topic at hand. For this blogpost, I skimmed through the course contents shortly and took a closer look into one of the lectures offered, answering the three reflection questions posed afterwards - thus, my brief assessment of the course is by no means representational. While the videos provided seem to me to be put together in a detailed manner, it was hard for me to keep my attention to the content as high as in a comparable classroom situation at my University, but I guess this is the downside one has to acknowledge in engaging with MOOCs in general. In particular, the absence of actually being able to stop the lecturer to pose a question and for eventually starting a discussion - hearing different opinions and perspectives of fellow colleagues, and not just the lecturers' assessment - reduced the learning experience for me greatly. Regarding the content of the lecture on non-opioid treatment options and the presentation of facts and perspectives, I truly felt like I was participating in an academic seminar: the argumentation line presented was clear-cut and the sources used were cited in a transparent way. However, answering the reflection questions posed after the video made me go back into the times of my bachelor courses in my head, as they were 'un-inspired' multiple choice questions, seemingly lacking a genuine reflexive moment. Thus, paying 100$ for a certificate which is based on answering large batteries of multiple choice questions of this kind is not appealing to me at all.
In conclusion, I want to stress that I perceive MOOCs as a proper way of spreading educational efforts globally and making courses available to basically everyone who has stable access to the internet. Further, these educational measures make it really easy to dive into topics which are not in the scope of the respective university programme you're taking. Nonetheless, I'm glad that I'm not dependent on MOOCs for my (tertiary) education, as I wouldn't like to miss out on physically attending classes and being able to discuss with colleagues in an ad-hoc fashion. 
Putting it in flowery words: Having tasted the sweet fruit of participating in an active learning environment at university, I can't imagine having to solely depend on the semi-barren ground of video-based learning for my educational purposes.

6 comments:

  1. What are the benefits of physical presence in class anyways? especially for lectures?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ad hoc - and yes, quite subjectively- I'd say that physical attendance enhances the participatory moment, for instance by enabling vivid discussions and asking questions for clarification. Further, it's a social thing to me as meeting colleagues yields the possibility of not only professional, but also personal exchange. In particular in our small MA programme this makes up a 'personal' learning experience in contrast to gazing at a computer screen and clicking through a course 'alone' (in a physical sense).

      Regarding lectures, my arguments provided seem maybe a tad weaker, but still applicable - but maybe it's just me and my passion for asking questions face-to-face?

      Delete
    2. _________________________$$
      ____________________$__$$$$
      ____________________$_$_$$
      ___________________$$_$$$$
      ___________________$_$$_$$
      __________________$$_$$$$$
      _________________$$_$$$$$$
      _________________$$_$_$$$$
      ________________$$_$$$$$_$
      _______________$__$$_$$$$$$
      _______________$_$__$$$$$$
      _________________$$$$$$$$$
      ___________________$$$$$$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$
      __________________$_$_$_$__________$$$$
      _________$$$$_____$_$_$_$_________$$§$$
      _______$$$$$______$_$_$_$________$$§§$$
      _____$$$$§§$$_____$_$_$_$______$$$§§§$
      ___$$$$§§§§§$$$___$_$_$_$______$_§§§$$
      ___$$_$§§§__$$$$$$$_$_$_$_____$$_§§$$
      ____$$_$§§__§§§§§$$_$_$_$_____$$_§§$$
      _____$$_$§§§§§§§§$$_$_$_$____$$_§$$$
      _______$_$§§§§§§§$$_$_$_$$_$$$_§§$$
      _______$$_$§§§§§§$$_$_$_$$$§§§§§§$$
      ________$_$§§§§§§§$_$_$_$§§§§§§§§$$
      _________$_$§§§§§§$_$_$_$§§§§§§§§$
      _________$_$§§§§§§$_$_$_$§§§§§§§§$
      __________$_$§§§§§$_$_$_$§§§§§§§§$
      __________$_$§§§§§$_$_$_$§§§§§§§§$
      __________$_$§§§§§$_$_$_$§§§§§§§§$
      __________$_$§§§§§$_$_$_$§§§§§§§§$
      _________$_$$§§§§§$_$_$_$§§§§§§§§$$
      _________$_$$§§§§§$_$_$_$§§§§§§§§$$
      ________$$_$$§§§§§$_$_$_$$$§§§§§§$$$
      ________$_$$§§§§§§$_$_$_$$$$$§§§§$$$$
      _______$$_$$§§§§§§$$$$$$$$$$$___§$$$$$
      _______$_$$§§§§§§§$_$$$_$__$$$$$$___$$$
      ______$_$$§§§§§§§_$_____$$$$$§§§$000$$$$
      _____$_$$§§§§§§§§§$$$$$$$$$$$§§§$$00_0_$$$
      ____$_$$§§§§§§§§§§$§§§§§§__$$$$$$0n$000$$$$
      ___$_$$§§§§§§§§§§§$________$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
      __$$_$$§§§§§§§§§§§$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
      __$_$$$§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§$$$$$$$$______$$$$$$
      _$_$$$$§§§$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$_____________$$$$
      _$_$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
      _$_$$$$$______________$$$$
      $$$$$
      $$$

      Delete
  2. .-.( °_° ),~*`+-..¯`°´¯
    ......_,-+~* *~+-,_..`*`)..¯`°´¯
    .(_.-~`+~-,__,~´`*´*
    ....^v^
    _____________$…... ^v^..
    ____... ^v^_____$$
    _____________$_$$
    _____________$$$ …..... ^v^
    _... ^v^_______$$_§§§.
    ___________$$$_§§§§§
    ___________$_$_§§§§§§ ………..... ^v^
    __________$$_$__§§§§§§
    _________$$$_$__§§§§§§§
    ________$$$$_$__§§§§§§§§
    _______$$$$$_$__§§§§§§§§
    _____$$$$$$$_$__§§§§§§§§§
    ____$$$$$$$$_$_§§§§§§§§§§§
    _$_$$$$$$$$$_$_§§§§§§§§§§§
    _$$_$________$$$_____$$$$$___$$
    __$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$_$$$$.
    ___$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    _..-+*°*+-.._ ~~~*°*~~~ _..-+*°*+-.._
    ~~~ _..-+*°*+-..~~~~ _..-+*°*+-.._
    _..-+*~~°*+-..__..-+*~~~~°*+-.._*+-...-+*°
    _.~*°*~~~~ _..-+*~~~~°*+-.._*.-+*°*+-.._
    Wollte nur mal schnell vorbei segeln und
    dir einen lieben Gruß hinterlassen!

    ReplyDelete
  3. So, did you learn something in the course you tried? Even though you say it was hard to keep your attention on the course? What do you think, for which target audience was the course designed?

    ReplyDelete