CTAs – The Essential Human Element of #edcmooc

Okay. So the course is officially over, with assessments and evaluations submitted, and results awaited. But yet it’s far from over for me. There is so much to reflect upon, and so much to follow through, and so many of the course resources that I have yet to engage with. EDCMOOC was perhaps just a starting point for me. There is so much that I would like to write about, to share my experience through this journey of five weeks which forever altered the meaning of learning for me. I suppose a single blog post will hardly be sufficient for all that I would like to express, but something came up in last night’s Google hangout that got me thinking, and this is what I would like to talk about for now.

During the hangout, there was a discussion about the non-human agencies at work in the EDCMOOC and the possibility of automating some of the processes in the course.  In response to this, Maddie tweeted something to Dr Sian Bayne that caught my attention:

Of course, Dr Bayne clarified in the hangout that they had no plans to replace or remove the CTAs, but this got me thinking about how the course would have been without the CTAs.

My first thought about this is that probably I would not be sitting here writing this post – because I would probably have dropped out in the first week itself.

So why didn’t I drop out then ? I’m afraid there is no simple answer to this, and no single answer to this. But one of the major reasons that I continued with the programme AND completed it as well is because of the strong presence of the CTAs. You might be wondering why I am making this categorical statement. Please allow me to elaborate.

I’m told that the previous run of EDCMOOC had no CTA’s, and I wonder how those who finished the course, managed to do it. Sheer persistence, I suppose. And before I go on to share my views on the presence of CTA’s, I would also like to share one more thought – if the number of people who actually finish this run of the EDCMOOC is higher than the previous run, in all probability it could be attributed to the CTAs.

When I first signed up for this course, my idea of an online course was about watching video lectures, engaging with reference material and answering quizzes related to those. When the course actually started, I was in for a surprise – or a shock, perhaps. This course was nothing like any other online programme. I have done some online courses earlier, and also another MOOC from Coursera but there is absolutely no similarity between those courses and this one.

The initial feeling was one of being totally lost and overwhelmed. Yes, the directions were explicitly given in the course content, but still it was confusing, to say the least. As a starting point, I decided to visit the Coursera forums to check out on how the other participants were faring. This, unfortunately did not work well for me because Coursera’s forums are not very user-friendly and very confusing, to say the least, and this sort of compounded the confusion for me. I felt like a rudderless boat floundering for direction.

And this direction – or rudder, if you please – was then provided by the CTA’s. They were everywhere – dedicatedly following the forums, blogs and social spaces like Facebook and Twitter and what have you. Their presence had a calming effect and with their guidance I slowly started moving forward, slowly but surely. It was their encouragement and guidance that saw me through the course, especially the first week, which was critical because if I had not been able to form that connect with them, I would probably have given up and opted out of the course. BUT because they were there, and they knew precisely how overwhelming this could be to a new participant, they not only coaxed people like me to give it a shot with their valuable guidance, and also the vast wealth of experience that they brought with them from the previous run.

In a course where the engagement with the reference material is supposed to be largely self-directed, they have been our anchors – the human touch which is essential for many learners. They have been our guides, tutors, friends, mentors, sounding-boards and more – the #fraingers who took charge of us and made sure that we completed what we set out to do. And what was even more reassuring was the fact that since they were from different time-zones, someone or the other was always available when required. They have been the reassuring human element of this course – the pillars on which the huge responsibility of carrying people through the course rests. A responsibility that they have discharged admirably. It has been highly motivating to see people with such dedication, taking time out from their day to day personal schedules to monitor the activities of students, and guiding them wherever and whenever required.

For a course that has more than 22K participants enrolled, the instructors have their task cut out for them in trying to keep tabs on the goings-on in the various spaces that the participants interact in. Indeed the course reference material, the carefully selected resources and the weekly Google hangouts have been of tremendous help and over the last five weeks I have developed a strong respect for the five instructors and the fact that they have managed to move us out of our comfort zones to explore learning in this format. It has been am amazing, yet challenging, journey.

But the journey has been great fun especially because we had the CTAs along as not just fellow-travellers on this trail of learning but as active guides who are familiar with the route and all that one encounters on that route. So if I have managed to complete this course, the credit for it goes largely to the having the CTAs along for guidance.

Thanks CTAsI know that I am speaking for countless other participants who would probably share my views –  Kudos to the CTAs for a job well done, and my sincere thanks for guiding me around the “labyrinth”, for all the guidance and hand-holding. God Bless you all !