It’s been about 6-8 months since the big PR launch of online learning platforms like Udacity, Coursera, and edX (well, actually edX was launched recently), yet I still haven’t completed my first class.
I signed up excited and couldn’t wait to begin, but for some reason my attention and desire wavered. I am a huge fan of online learning platforms; it’s my favorite industry to dig into. I thought about what the “secret sauce” might be to reach more students, and I’ve compiled a list of the improvements that I think should be made. I understand many of these companies are continually iterating, yet these next points should be at the top of their list.
Extend the Videos!
Videos are a great way to learn, yet there’s nothing like hands-on learning. I’ve watched many videos with “homework” that is supposed to be done like any traditional class. To me, that just doesn’t seem right – we have the power of the internet at our disposal, there’s gotta be a better way.
Udacity does a great job extending videos. They have mini-quizzes that can be completed in the browser, with no need to leave the platform. I think this is a a great start, yet more must be done.
Posting Classes Online != Online Courses
This is my biggest pet peeve. Many so-called online learning platforms simply post lecture notes, videos, and homework online. Congratulations, your “platform” is now a repository, but what are you doing to engage users? How is the student learning as a result of what you offer? Any university can post course content online – can we please step it up a notch?
This is the X-factor in my opinion. The first online learning platform to create a thorough grading process is going to be years ahead of the rest. If I remember right, Udacity has a “robot grader“, but it’s nothing special because all the courses are related to computer programming. If a startup can create a nearly human approach to grading homework, I’m going to cry tears of joy.
Quality, Not Quantity
Coursera is recently announced that they were partnering with 12 different universities to offer classes. While I appreciate that they are ramping up their online offerings, it’s critical to partner with rockstar professors or teachers. Udacity gained a ton of exposure by being associated with Google employees, and to be honest, I don’t know what type of teacher Antonio Rangel (he’s teaching a Coursera class) is. Personally, I would be much more apt to learn from someone I respected – someone who I have heard of before.
With that being said, I’m 100% confident that the majority of the professors associated with Coursera are great, I just need that extra push to sign up.
I hate this word, yet there’s so much potential with the gamification of online classes. Last year, I took a class with an online learning component (McGraw-Hill), and I was constantly learning slides and reviewing course material, simply because there was a stupid leader board. As soon as I saw that, my ego kicked in, and it was a challenge. I wanted to be #1. Online learning platforms need a prize – even if it means a badge on your profile.
There’s nothing like a timely email reminder that homework is due in a few days. With all the learning platforms I’ve used, the email notifications are clunky. I posted on a forum once, and for the next month I received responses to that post. I understand that I could’ve unsubscribed, yet when the ironic part was that I wasn’t even emailed about homework! Sounds like a conflict of priorities to me.
I think this is an easy fix, and should improve the rate of course completions. It’s cool that Coursera has 1.6 million registrations, yet how many of them have finished a course? I’m guessing very few.
The Elephant in the Room
Where’s the incentive for learning a class from a specific platform? In the future, partnerships will need to be established, offering a type of certification. They could also decide to slowly build their credibility with corporations/large companies, tailoring courses to match job requirements (although I think this is a long shot.)
As time passes, these online classes will continue to grow in popularity, but the fact of the matter is that the majority of America is concerned about your diploma. Until then, online learning has a long ways to go. I’m rooting for you guys!