This is an attempt to touch upon learning experience, as part of my blog series to compare MOOCs with online degree programs.
A friend of mine went to pursue a full-time master’s program after more than a decade in corporate world. Burying his head into reading endless papers and writing more, he jokingly said – “I used to be paid to enjoy life. Now I paid my tuition to suffer.”
That is bizarrely true. For consumer business, customers pay to satisfy their needs or craves. For entertainment business, movie-goers pay to have a pleasant time. Continuous education is something quite different – people pay their tuition to work (and suffer). At least, from their point of view.
I am the online version of him. A couple of times I wanted to drop out my current online degree program. The workload was a bit intimidating. It is far from being fun to stay at home at night doing the reading and assignments. Especially after you hear the what others are going at night – party, social meetup, dinner, movie, play, talk. It feels like the whole world is having a great time, except me.
But I have invested heavily in doing the application work, I have paid my tuition (US$1000 per course). The sunk cost became quite high for me to shrug off the burden. I had to persist.
It is not the same with a MOOC course. For all the courses I signed up for, there is no entry barrier, no initial financial cost, I could exit any time I would like to (which I did in many occasions, shame on me).
But for those I persisted are those which are truly taught well or I had superior peer support. The entry barrier was close to zero (I just needed to sign up for the platform and for the course), I paid no money for them. The only thing that kepe me going was it was simply so much fun to do it. In reflection, these courses do share some commonality – the videos are fun; reading load is light; a lot of assignments ask me to DO things; I felt strong presence of my peers, either I meet them in local meet-up events, or I worked with them as mentor-mentee or small group peer.
I still cannot get my head around one question – where should online learning experience go between a commitment game and an entertainment game. Shall we attempt to lock learners with heavy initial investment so they have to stay, or shall we allue them with a Hollywood model – it is so light, enthrilling and engaging, that they would not want to leave?