The UvA MOOC Exam

April 18, 2013 § 2 Comments

IMG_20130418_193941After eight weeks of lectures, readings and debates about Communication Science, the first UvA MOOC ended with an exam. For many students in regular courses, the exam is the most stressful part of the program. Even for those who study hard, it is not easy to pass through without being worried. And if we consider a course of Humanities (such as Communications), things might be even more difficult. Sometimes there’s no correct answer. We have to deal with many different theories and analyze them in different contexts in order to have best answers.

Ok, so how do we cover main Communication theories, histories and concepts in a MOOC? Perhaps there isn’t a right answer yet, but I believe the UvA MOOC proposed one very effective – at least for me as a student of this MOOC. They created weekly (non-graded) quizzes with 24 questions and made a final (graded) exam with 100 questions. Basically, students who watched all lectures and completed all quizzes (total around 144 questions), would be ready for the exam. The Little Box of Nuance was an important part of this MOOC – mainly for students interested in having a deeper knowledge in the topic -, but it wasn’t required for the final exam.

Despite my background in Journalism and Social Communication, the course presented me many other theories that I still wasn’t familiar with. So, although I had some prior knowledge in the topic, a large part of the content was new for me, which made the MOOC challenging and interesting to follow. I also enjoyed a lot the style of the course: short videos with cartoons and de Graaf language were easy to catch up. Even when I was too busy, I could manage to watch everything on my own time, on my computer or even on my mobile!

My opinion is that those students who followed the UvA MOOC basics – videos + quizzes – did well in the exam. All questions had the same style of the quizzes: direct, focused on main topics and theories, sometimes with examples to contextualize. Students had one week to deliver the exam. Although I had many notes on my own and had downloaded the transcripts, I did the exam like I would do in a regular classroom, which means: no cheating. Cheating, by the way, is one major problem in MOOCs exams: how courses providers and teachers can assure that students will complete the exam on their own? Before starting, students check a box to agree with an Honor Code: but to what extent do they really follow the code? Perhaps a topic for a future post…

Overall, I believe my exam went well. I don’t have the final grade yet, but I only had doubts in a few questions. I completed all 100 questions in around 45 minutes.  According with Professor Rutger de Graaf, 717 (of 5.467) students completed the exam. This number is very high compared to the number of enrollments and also other MOOCs. For instance, a MOOC from Duke University about Bioelectricity on Coursera had 12.725 inscriptions. However, only 346 attempted the final exam. Comparing, UvA MOOC had 13% of completion rate and Duke had 0,2%.

The average grade of the UvA MOOC was 7.6, which is nice. Means that many students achieved a good score. What I found most interesting is that students could also evaluate the course itself, and the UvA MOOC received a grade of 7.8. Fair enough: 95% percent of students agreed that the course was successful in discussing communication science history, main theories, models and concepts. Quite a challenge for only one MOOC!

For a future MOOC in this field, I also would like to see a different type of examination. Questions are fine, but maybe it’s worth trying P2P assignments or ideas like EDCMOOC had, such as creating a digital artifact with some topics of the course. It might be a different, fun and even effective way to learn for many students. I believe that’s what’s so amazing about MOOCs: there’s no recipe, no models. Let’s do it, try it and make our best. Maybe this ideal will change higher education for good.

Did you complete the UvA MOOC? What did you think about the exam? Would you be willing to try other types of examinations? I would be glad to hear more from other students in the comments!

Final remark: Produce week 8 as a “MOOC of a MOOC” was a great idea! The team made ‘backstage’  videos, showing results, improvements, difficulties and even bloopers – best part! 🙂 You can watch all videos on their Youtube Channel.


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