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A tale of two MOOCs



I’m a week or two behind and struggling to catch up. One of the main reasons I’m falling behind is I’m simultaneously enrolled in another library-related MOOC on metadata (while working full-time too). So I thought I’d write a blog post about this, and how the two MOOCs I’m doing differ from each other.

I’m enrolled and actively participating in both The HyperLinked Library and Coursera’s MOOC on Metadata, by Jeffrey Pomerantz from the University of North Carolina. Juggling both at once is difficult. I don’t think there’s any magic solution to dealing with the workload.

But ultimately it comes down to priorities. Through the #HyperLibMOOC and #MetadataMOOC Twitter tags, I’ve been getting into discussions with several others who are involved in both MOOCs. @carliebrary said to me that her focus was on “…consuming what I think will stick in my brain right now, nothing more”.

I think she’s right. There’s an endless wealth of content contained in these MOOCs, and to mentally absorb all the information available is almost impossible. What’s most important is the things learnt and the connections made that will stay with us in six months, two years, maybe even ten years!

It’s an interesting experience studying both subjects at once because of the contrast between the two.

The Metadata MOOC resembles one of those online portals for a typical university subject. The only difference, really, is that tens of thousands of students are enrolled, and we are all studying the content online (for free!) rather than on campus. The central focus is on the weekly lectures, which are quite dense.

Although there is plenty of social interaction available via the forums, networking seems more an afterthought than a feature of the course. The assessment takes the form of a linear weekly set of quizzes. These features are not all necessarily negative – the structured nature of the course makes it simple to follow the natural progression of content, even if the content itself is rather dense at times.

By contrast, the HyperLinked Library MOOC is dynamic, fluid, and has a greater focus on the social networking aspects. Much of it is familiar because of our experiences with Twitter and Facebook. Although there are weekly lectures, these are not the core of the course. For me, the lectures primarily serve to provoke us into thinking about issues and inspiring us to create content or interact with others’ content – whether that content be blog posts, updates, comments, or sharing videos and articles.

This content creation and interaction is the core aspect of this course, for me. We each have a soapbox to stand on (via our blogs) to put forward our ideas, and I feel there are just the right numbers of people enrolled and just the right level of enthusiasm to maintain this little ecosystem where we bounce ideas off each other and exchange real life examples of those ideas. Though maybe “bounce” is the wrong term, I think we are genuinely absorbing each others’ ideas.

These elements are mostly positive. However, the sheer proliferation of user-created content across the board does result in a FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) type of dynamic. Although I may have watched the lectures for one week, I always feel like there’s an infinite number of fellow students’ blog posts I should peruse or comment on. You could set a target of reading one other blog post, all the blog posts in your Homeroom, but where should you draw the line? As the aforementioned discussion on Twitter mentioned, you just have to focus on whatever will stick in your mind, I guess!


  1. ” For me, the lectures primarily serve to provoke us into thinking about issues and inspiring us to create content or interact with others’ content.”

    This is a neat observation and reading your comparison of the two MOOCs really crystallizes my impressions of the HL MOOC. I have found that I am not able to read all of the supplementary materials, but I am getting into a rhythm of checking out the blog posts of my HR 9 peers, checking Twitter to see what I glean there, and mixing in insights from lectures and readings. By forming a manageable habit, I feel the MOOC is more productive for me than if I were to form a goal of tackling every last part of it. It’s just too vast, but I can keep busy in my corner of the network.

    Your friends “what will stick in my brain for now” approach is very realistic, I think. There are only 24 hours in a day, and we spend 8 working, 1 or 2 commuting, hopefully 8 sleeping… that leaves just a few hours for everything else!

    • Hey thanks, Lissette, that was me ;-) I really enjoyed this post, and think Michael and Kyle will enjoy reading your MOOC perspective. I view the two MOOCs the same way you do. I’m absorbing info in the MetaMOOC and am part of a conversation in the HyperlibMOOC. Like ‘em both for different reasons :-)

  2. Avatar of Madeleine Madeleine says:

    “just the right numbers of people enrolled and just the right level of enthusiasm to maintain this little ecosystem”

    I agree with you about the limited number of people enrolled, and I think that this has been one of the best features of this MOOC. I’m generally a fan of MOOCs and what they stand for in terms of free and open education, but I really think that their essentially uncontrollable class sizes may be their downfall. It inhibits just the type of social interaction that hyperlibmooc has encouraged due to that whole FOMO dynamic. It is difficult to feel like I’m fully keeping up on other MOOCs – but for me this is in part due to quite frankly rubbish forum search functions on the platforms I have used for MOOCing in the past.

    I really like the clever use of the homeroom idea in this MOOC. Attempts to limit class sizes in a previous MOOC I was enrolled in, well, it didn’t go so well.

    • Avatar of Steven Chang Steven Chang says:


      But what’s the core issue with capacity, ultimately? Is it the total aggregate number of people involved, or the lack of filtering/grouping in other courses?

      Could a MOOC sustain 500,000 students being enrolled if those masses of students were neatly organised into distinct homerooms?

  3. [...] Infoseer wird z.B. das HyperLibMOOC mit anderen Programmen [...]

  4. Very aware of FOMO. Working with feeds and setting aside time to make user I see as much of the conversations I can. Thank you for writing this post and sharing your experience and perceptions of our MOOC.

    • Avatar of Steven Chang Steven Chang says:

      Thanks for reading, Michael! I’m trying to re-introduce RSS and Feedly back into my life, but the irresistible pull of social media streams is so hypnotising sometimes. I need to stop it!

  5. Avatar of Lindy Lindy says:

    Cheers! I’m also enrolled in the metadata MOOC but ultimately realized I had to give up staying on track/following the deadlines. I’m going to stick with it, but just take the quizzes late for fun rather than credit. I tell myself that I can still learn that way, even if I won’t get a fancy certificate for the work.

    To compound my situation, I’m also enrolled in the Understanding Media by Understanding Google MOOC, so I totally stretched myself too thin with all the classes. (I work full-time as well). What was I thinking? I got a little too excited by the MOOC bug.

    I love how you pointed out that the hyperlibMOOC has the networking aspect, which is impossible to do in the metadataMOOC.

    What I love about this class is there is a cap of 400 people. That keeps it somewhat manageable in being able to actually “meet” and talk with other people in the class. The forum discussions on the Google and Metadata MOOCs are just crazy-full and I just jump in and out of them, knowing I’m probably missing some information.

    • Avatar of Steven Chang Steven Chang says:

      Thanks for the comment, Lindy. I’ve found I’m doing the reverse. Trying hard to keep up with Metadata MOOC, and sadly being forced to sacrifice HyperLibMOOC deadlines in order to achieve that.

      Wow, three MOOCs at once! You’ve definitely stretched yourself too thin. Though I suppose if you had no other responsibilities like a job or other studies, then it would be just like doing part-time study.

      Good luck keeping up!

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