A/Prof Mead profile image

A/Prof Mead


  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
This course is a tough call: a very diverse group of students with widely varying needs, as expressed on the class forums, from students wanting to improve their English to graduate students looking for help with drafting chapters to professional editors looking to establish a network to professional academics checking out a Humanities course in MOOC-format. So, it would be hard to cater to the expectations of all these groups. Other reviewers have noted the course's positives for them: practical instruction on how to edit; setting standards for scientific writing in journals; encouraging reflection on their own writing. These are significant successes and I don't want to diminish them in the slightest. My interest was in the content, use of technology, experience of assessment and, crucially, sustaining attention. I also have a research project in scientific writing and I was looking for another perspective. So, my interests are narrow and partial but MOOCs are for everyone, right? The course satisfied my last interest most successfully: I've not edited a scientific journal so it was illuminating to watch the instructor doing the hard yards on the page. I also appreciated watching an American editor at work. My field is English language and it's endlessly fascinating to watch how English differs across the cultures in which it's used. At the risk of sounding churlish, may I be frank about the other points? I found the content very limited. "Good writing" is the high aim but, as the peer reviewing exercise showed, there are many different kinds of writing in the sciences. So it would have been useful to look at writing in a range of journals, from a range of disciplines and a range of genres. The technology is (mostly) pretty good: Coursera has invested heavily in the platform and it's paid off. Two suggestions, though: a video lecture that goes over 15 minutes wastes the potential of online technology. The instructor knows her material and is convincing but anyone talking online, in the same pose, the same manner and, often, reiterating multiple examples is going to lose the audience. Second, one of the flexibilities of online — and a big selling point for the format — is the student's ability to sequence and progress at an individual rate. So, locking down the modules week by week is a disincentive. I'm a big fan of peer assessment and, in this case, students had the chance to get their hands dirty and do some editing. I spent a lot of time on this part and reviewed more assignments than required. But without supporting rubrics or some kind of scaffolding it's a lottery and the risk is a dive to the bottom, rather than the middle. The research I've read on this topic supports this argument. I accept that the embedded quiz has the advantage of immediacy but — forgive me — it's not checking whether I've "understood the preceeding material," it's checking my capacity to remember what the video just said. That said, I'm very grateful to have done this course. My interest was really sustained, though, not so much by the material or the format but by the questions the experience raised for me both as a researcher in scientific writing and as a professional academic. Humanities courses are not immediately suited to online modality. Coursera's Daphne Koller hit the nail on the head when she called MOOCs "data-drive" rather than "hypthesis-driven" learning. So, there's a significant challenge for the Humanities where it's all pretty much hypothesis-driven knowledge. I imagine that an area like this one might be sequenced with, say, this course providing a general introduction and then one or two others that develop by being more specialised. One of the instructor's real skills is technical precision and another more specialised course would provide more scope. This course would then become the pre- requisite for later courses. Thanks for the opportunity to review this course; thanks for the opporunity to *do* course.