A Word About MOOCsters and Mojo

I can tell you right now, the posts in my blog are going to be a bit of a drunkards walk.  There will be a common thread (or several interweaving threads) but the freedom of just writing means I’ll be following my random thoughts a little.  You’ve been warned!

So what’s on my mind now is the vibe I’ve been getting from the MOOC students, the MOOCsters.  I don’t know why but I’ve always been very lucky to have a great rapport with my students.  Somehow, even with new students in each class, we soon seem to be resonating with one another.  I think they get that I genuinely care, and that I truly feel privileged to have a “job” that involves stimulating their minds and provoking thought.  I, in turn, try hard to understand where they’re at, to see my class through their eyes.  And again, with just a week or two of interaction we somehow come to feel like a class, not a prof in front of a bunch of students, but a community of people learning together … there is that mojo!  This despite the fact that my classes typically number well into the hundreds of students (i.e., 300 – 1900).

Going into my MOOC experience I couldn’t help but wonder if these students would be different.  They certainly were not going to be the 17 – 19 year olds I am accustomed to.  Would English proficiency be a major problem?  Would there be a sense of distance and coldness given the medium?  Most important, that vibe that I so feed off, the resonance I can typically feel between myself and my students, the mojo, would that be gone?  If so, would this course lose the fun I usually feel while teaching?

Well, two weeks into the MOOC and I am happy to say as loudly as I can, I love these MOOCsters!  At some level I shouldn’t have been surprised.  They come because they want to learn.  Yes they are a varied group.  Some have plenty of time to spend on the course and don’t mind the sort of complexities I tend to bring into their world (more on that later!) whereas others are trying to fit my class into an already busy life, and this latter group finds ambiguity and change more difficult to deal with.  Some are highly proficient in English, others not so much.  But despite all that the level of respect, mutual support, and community that I feel two weeks into this course is inspiring to me.  The mojo is there, despite the interactions being totally online, and this is really nice to know.

So maybe I will leave this blog on that point.  MOOCsters rock, especially my Cognitive Cannibals!  They appreciate the opportunity made available to them, they are engaged in the experience, and while they sometimes criticize specific aspects of the course (as they should!) they are consistently respectful and friendly.  In subsequent posts I’ll explore some of the worries over MOOCs, mostly coming from within academia, but it is important to stress that the basic premise of MOOCs is to provide a quality learning experience for free to people who might not otherwise have access.  This is no shadow promise.  It is real, it is happening, and the students really appreciate it.  And from my perspective, it’s certainly fun!

36 Replies to “A Word About MOOCsters and Mojo”

  1. First, I would like to congratulate you on all your great accomplishments/awards. After reading your website and watching some videos on Youtube, I have no excuses not to complete your Intro to Psychology course. I one of the late registrants but have caught up with your Week 2 lectures. I enjoy your lectures. Keep up the good works. Thanks.

    P.S. I created my own website several years ago and I’m still proud of it. 🙂

  2. Hi Steve

    I want to say, this course is amazing. When I did the intro survey I stated I will probably one see the lectures and not that much more. In just two weeks I have started to plan the experiments that I want to run in the Digital Labcoat. Now I am kinda happy that the Digital labcoat failed since the result will be that we get many more days of experimenting.

    Hope you have as much fun teaching this course as we have taking it.

    Best Regards

    Björn Berglund

  3. I’m one of the “trying to fit it in” students. However, I don’t find any of the complexities off putting–they give me something to think about when the rest of my life (and job) interfere.

    I look forward to the remainder of the class.

    Thank you for the opportunity.

  4. Hi Steve,
    Through my brother aged 42 I found coursera in which he’s studing a course online. Then I found and signed up for your course which I am participating in now, and loving. Would you believe my dad also has joined your course, his age 81. We are so proud of him. Talk about MOJO, at 81 years of age, I’d say he’s got what it takes. Majo Mojo!!! And me, I’m here to find my Mojo, Any one seen it yit? which vanished amongst having children, moving country and years of depression. Oh Yeh! Bring it on! I’m like a sponge, on my bad days I have the course I immerse myself in, in the quiet of my home, it’s true bliss.
    And don’t worry about your Mojo Steve, from one Cognitive Canabel to another it rocks! THANK YOU !!!!!!

  5. Hi steve, you are such a great tour guide. I am so glad that we are living in this technologically advanced age that MOOCs is something more than just a dream.

    This is very different from traditional education. When you go to a school, you are (to a certain extent) being forced to do so. There are some compulsory (and probably-not-so-interesting) courses which give you endless struggles. So when you sit in the classroom, the starting point (i.e. interest and ability) of the students is very likely to be different.
    Well, but here in Coursera, we choose our own courses. So basically if you are a Cognitive Cannibals, you must have a bit of interest in psychology ( or be fascinated by your extraordinarily well-written introduction.) It doesn’t matter whether we have read a book on psychology or not. The most important factor is that we have the eagerness to explore our minds and push our limits. In the discussion forum, I meet lots of amazing people. They are all so active, friendly and positive. I do aware of the fact that we have different backgrounds. However there is no (or very very little) cultural conflicts. This is because we respect one another and we understand that we are here to learn, instead of triggering a war. What makes this MOOC experience more charming is the diversity of the Cognitive Cannibals. This is like the globe in miniature!

    I am sure this journey will be one of the best things that has ever happened to every participants. Your father is proud of you, my pal.

    I also keep a blog on this brain tour. Feel free to have a look and view the whole thing from a different perspective (this is an optional activity just like the Digital Labcoat.)

    Much obliged.

    1. Very cool … will do! And thanks for the comment about my Dad. It is amazing, since his passing I think I try even harder to think about doing things I think he’d support and take pride in. He is with me always. That’s him in the banner picture … he and I sitting in one of the large classrooms I teach in. He used to brag that his son taught over 1500 students … I wish he had lived to see all this! I miss him and love him dearly.

      1. Do something to make somebody proud…

        Your dad is definitely impressed by what you have been doing. Not only does he care about the number of students in your class, he cares about the number of individuals you have inspired. What’s better than having a son who’s so passionate in spreading knowledge and spreading joy? In his eyes, you have always met that high level of expectation. He is with you all the time, and probably he is spying on your blog. (Well, as you have said, he is right here on the banner picture ) Just think about him whenever you encounter any bit of uncertainty in education, I am sure he will guide you to the right way.

        My grandpa passed away when I was in high school. I didn’t share much memories with him.. I was too young to remember anything when he was healthy and energetic. And his situation just turned bad and things like that. My mom started visiting his place everyday, and I didn’t understand..I really just didn’t get it at that moment. He left a few days before my final exam. The last time I met him, I brought along my Chemistry textbook, he asked me to work hard and do my very best. It was after his death that I started asking myself ‘what do I know about him’ and ‘what are the moments we have spent together?’ The scene with me holding my Chemistry textbook always popped up whenever I was trying to figure out what kind of person he is.. Looking back, I think I have been extraordinarily hard working on Chemistry. I wanted to make some sort of commitment to him, or I simply wanted him to be in my life for a longer period of time. I want more memories about him..sometimes I blame myself for not knowing much about him, not spending much time with him. I guess I am trying to do something to compensate, and to make him proud.

        Maybe that’s what we all do?

        1. Maybe … keeping the people we love alive in our memories, whether those memories be good or not so good, seems to be an important human ritual. It certainly is for me. Thanks for sharing your story KC … hopefully your grandpa is also spying on this blog! 🙂

  6. I am lucky to live in a country where education is for free and accessible for everyone (almost at least). And I am really thankful to that. This MOOCs are a revolution in the educational world as they are taking away the elitist aspect of knowledge. And this is just the beginning, let’s hope that these courses will stay free and therefore bring more freedom, awareness and peace to the people.
    Whenever I talk about MOOCs I become solemn 😉
    Love your course Steve!

    1. I think these MOOCs reach almost all countries now … hmmm … anyone here from North Korea? If so, that’s really be something! But yes, that’s part of what makes this all so cool … we sit “together” while sitting in places that span the globe. Pretty mindblowing if you let it be.

  7. Professor Steve,
    I’d like to say that i feel extremely thankful for the opportunity that I have to take your introduction to psychology course.The course topic itself was a great incentive to begin with but as these 2 weeks have gone by and having watched your lectures and seeing how genuinely passionate you are on the subject makes me very excited and happy. You see my ultimate dream was to go to university, I never thought there was any possible way that it would not happen and yet it did not. Your course is the closest I’ve come to the education I yearned for, the impact its having in my life (and I’m sure in many others) is incredibly positive and reinforcing. Thank you.

  8. I am unsure whether there was an appropriate forum at coursera.org to post this so I decided to post it here.

    Psychology had always been my favorite topic although I never got a chance to study it… until now and I’m really glad that I have you as the prof. The way you teach is simply awesome and you’re definitely not like the professors I had and/or have who literally put me to sleep. I’ve signed up for 5 course on coursera but Intro to Psychology is the course I always look forward to. That said, I had a question in mind. Will you be teaching more courses on coursera? I’d love to learn psychology in more detail! Especially if its taught by you. (Yes I know I run the risk of sounding like a kiss-ass)

    Go Maple Leafs ! :p

  9. Steve,

    One of the things I’ve found the most fun about the MOOC’s is the discussion groups. I find it highly amusing how me and the rest of the posting cannibals have fallen quickly into the Stereotypical BreakFast Club member categories.

    I’m not sure you get a chance to recognize these as quickly sitting a class of 1900 and I’m not sure what the percentage of “Posters” to “Participants” is in the on-line class being held now, but I’m sure there’s another “heading” for those that do post (in my case, probably too much).

    Keep on trucking, Professor Dude!

    1. Well, of the 40,000 active in this course … I have quickly come to know your name and to know you as someone who enjoys teaching, learning, and bringing various bits of knowledge together. And you’re always quick to help a classmate, which is extremely admirable and speaks volumes. So yeah Steven, you stand out, in exactly the right way!

  10. We don’t have to be in your classroom to be able to tell you really care, about psychology, about teaching, and also about students. I’m following a few courses at Coursera right now because I can’t afford official education and my brain has been very, very hungry for knowledge (Cannibal to the core!), but I’m not embarrassed to say whenever people ask me about it, I tell them a few basic things and then dive right into something that usually starts with “and let me tell you about my Intro to Psych professor!” You’re an inspiration, Steve. Really, are you. Thank you so much for making this experience possible.

    1. And by “really, are you” I of course mean “really, you are.” Perhaps I should learn to proofread… I was not questioning myself!

  11. It’s very cool to hear your take on those kinds of interactions and the mojo involved- I’ve always felt that with my favorite profs and (being my first MOOC course, especially) was interested in how that might translate online. I’m also happy to say it is definitely there! Perhaps even more, in a unique way. There is so much variety of culture and level of study and opinions….it’s great to be a part of.

    1. That was part of my interest to. Normally when I’m doing my think I’m pacing around in front of a large class … “performing” in a sense. I wasn’t sure how this would translate when I was instead sitting in front of a computer talking, essentially, to myself. Sounds like its working for many of you, and that comes as a great relief for me. I love reaching so many hungry minds!

  12. Hi Steve Sir(Yes sir, it is the way here in India),

    Love your lectures a lot. At no point till now, have I found them boring. Though I am not regular in discussion forum (as psychology is very new to me and I am getting overboard with all new information), your lectures are opening up the vast cluttered space for neurons to flow freely in my head. Hail #CognitiveCannibals.

    1. Excellent … and sir is fine, as is Steve, or Prof … just no Mr. Joordens, that’ll always be my Dad 🙂

  13. When I signed up for the course I thought I’d be spending about an hour a day on it and now I seem to be hooked. I have a lot of watch later videos from the course links on you tube and I’m reading up on things I never thought were related to psychology. This course has opened up the whole complex nature of the subject to me, its not just the brain, its a whole lot more. Thank you for doing such an awesome job with teaching this course!

    1. I told you, Psychology is freakin cool … that’s what happened to me to. I wanted to be a record producer! (still kinda do)

  14. All I can say is I agree with everyone here…I love the videolectures, I love the experiments, the sidevideos, the readings…and just can’t stop thinking which variables may I use for the Digital Lab in order to test a good hypothesis (which I think I have)
    ..so let’s cross fingers and see if I have the chance to test them!
    Congrats from Barcelona (these days not as sunny as you may think) and keep doing it smart!
    Cannibals 4ever!

  15. Hi Steve,
    I just want to thank you for this incredible class. When I first read about MOOC´s in the most prestigious German weekly magazine “Die ZEIT” I was fascinated. MOOCs are the best way for all of us who love to learn and for any reason have no possibility to visit the University – like for me working full time as a teacher or for all of those living in areas where visiting a university is too expensive or difficult because of the distance. The article told about a 15 year old girl from India taking a course of electro technics. I did already distant learning studies at German universities several years ago living in Mexico – getting scripts and sending in text or making exams at the German institutions, like the Goethe Institute where I was teaching at that time, it was good to keep on studying but also very hard work, but this is really a different and exciting thing. For me it is like the third dimension of learning, especially your course. I did other Moocs, which were really good, I learned a lot about the topics, but you really have a very special way of making the viewer of your videos and the reader of your mails feel like if there is no distance between us, despite of the ocean and without direct personal contact. I hope you and your team will go on doing more courses – I would love to take them. And I also would appreciate to know if you use the data of the Digital Lab Coat – which is not only really fun but I think there could be interesting data for some scientific questions.
    Best wishes I will now see if I can watch your band – have fun at the concert:-)

    1. Hi Vera, sorry for being so slow to reply. Somehow I missed your post. Although there is some worry about MOOCS in University settings, there can be no doubt that they offer an extremely convenient form of education to people who might not otherwise have access, and that is a pretty fantastic thing! Thanks for all the kind words, I very much appreciate them, and yes the gig was fun! I just need to get some videos online now 🙂

  16. I really love the course! I recently completed Beginners Guide to Irrational Behavior (Dan Ariely) and think this course is a good compliment to it. I thoroughly enjoy each and every lecture and appreciate the enthusiasm you bring. One thing I have noticed-the angle at which you appear on camera most of the time shows the top of the picture on the wall behind you and part of the sculpture on table and it looks like two pointy ears and a tail sometimes-have you ever noticed that? Just started wk 6 videos, the week I think will be the most interesting to me personally.
    Thanks for all you do!

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