MOCCs, getting my first open badge, feedback & the NSS

Student Work and Teacher Feedback by Ken Whytock, on Flickr
One of the articles that caught my attention on Zite this morning  was ‘Four Good Reasons Why Students Need Instructor Feedback in Online Courses‘ by Debbie Morrison. In her post Debbie spells out why she doesn’t think MOOCs cut it for students entering higher education straight from school and particularly in relation to feedback.  This got me thinking about the National Student Survey and the fact that feedback is the criteria that universities typically score the lowest on.  If there was an NSS equivalent for MOOCs how well would Coursera, edX and Udacity score on feedback?
The 2012 NSS did show some improvement in the assessment and feedback category but there is still room for improvement. Whilst students welcome and value feedback from their peers what they really want is feedback from their teachers. On MOOCs with thousands of students it’s pretty much impossible to provide feedback to individual  students and so Debbie questions their role and suitability for school leavers entering higher education. She writes:
College students benefit greatly from instructor feedback, including when it’s provided in a small online learning community where interaction exists between students and instructor and students and students. In a Massive Open Online Course, [or even a F2F class of 100+ students]  it’s impossible to provide the required learning conditions for this type of interaction. It worries me that colleges and universities appear to be moving towards the MOOC model for delivering some or all courses (as in the case of SUNY or California’s public higher education institutions); courses that don’t provide for a student-to-instructor ratio that supports personalized learning. The MOOC model cannot provide the type of learning experiences needed for freshman or junior college students that is required for courses that include writing composition, communications, literature analysis, and other humanities courses. One could even argue that this is the case for some courses in math and sciences. Though I am an advocate of MOOCs, since they provide an excellent learning experience in numerous circumstances, the model which relies on the premise of massive, is not an effective one for every learner in every learning situation.
On xMOOCs it’s peer feedback that plays an important part of the learning dialogue and the posts that I’ve written on my blog whilst participating in the #h817open MOOC have generated comments here and discussion on the MOOC G+ community or on Twitter, which have made me think further.  This has all been good and helpful, however somewhat ironically, my last blog post on issues with OERs, which I submitted for an open badge didn’t get any comments (maybe it was just too long!).  So I received my first open badge (the badges were one of the reasons for doing this MOOC), I felt chuffed but I was also left thinking what did the individual who’d assessed my work and awarded me the badge actually think of what I’d written? An xMOOC is open and it’s free, so I wasn’t expecting feedback, but it did leave me wondering how a typical university student would feel not receiving feedback and reading Debbie Morrison’s post this morning I tend to agree that the lack of individual feedback in MOOCs is an issue. I have a badge on OER understanding but what was it about my evidence that meant I got the badge.  What does the badge actually say about my level of understanding.  I wonder if we need to have specific details of what’s required to be awarded an open badge to give it more meaning and context?
I’ve been thinking about how we might use open badges in medical education and have some ideas of where I could possibly introduce them in my own work.  The experience of getting my first open badge has given me food for thought about making the criteria for a badge explicit and involving some level of feedback.  So even though I didn’t get any personal feedback reflecting on this has been a useful learning experience for me.
I’d be interested to know what others, including my fellow #h817open MOOCers think about open badges and feedback.
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  Ken Whytock 


  1. Great post. I love reading about other people’s experiences of MOOCs as it feels like we are helping to shape them. I know what you mean about feedback. I too got badges but after the initial excitement, I was left wondering why I got the badge. What was good about the post and what could have been better. I think humans are genetically geared to want feedback. There, now I have fedback so you can relax!

    1. Thanks Nat. Good to know I’m not the only one who was wondering what was good and what I could have done better! I think your point about our experiences on MOOCs is an important one not just in relation to shaping future MOOCs but also to our current teaching and the approaches we can apply to our every day practice. It’s always good to experience things from the student perspective.

  2. I did not get feedback for #h817open badge, either, but the criteria for receiving was based on submission.I have been passively lurking in Coursera’s #HCIopen which has a learner population with less “out of school” experience. It has a combination of fact based quizzes based on video lectures (the video lectures have questions.. built-pre-assessment of knowledge) and then in a separate form of assessment one has to submit a design project in stages. Not unlike medical education, fact testing, and skill testing (presentation of history and physical, then on to diagnosis and treatment management). The Coursera HCU model has tutors who monitor the forums and G+ community to answer questions and give feedback. (Don’t know what the tutors’ qualifications are except they have taken the course before.) They do seem to be fairly active, though. Then there are a few diligent more experienced learners who fill in gaps of expertise. You could lurk over there and ask the participants what they think.

    Medical students study together and give each other feedback on facts and skills… H&P, etc.(peer based) or use simulation (robotic bodies that also give feedback on skills…tutor/Instructor feedback?)

    So my question is, what phases or parts of medical education would you want badges for?

    I do know that though the content is very similar, there are some differences in the systems of delivery of “British” and “American” systems medical education.

    Separate, side note about OERs in medical education…..medical students have been making their own and sharing, probably from time immemorial, and always seem to know which ones are “quality”. As far as open access, well you know those file sharing sites they keep taking down-:) and no your last post was not too long…I’m just as cynical about…. as you are and did not want to go there.

    1. Hi Deborah, thanks for commenting. I don’t think any of us get feedback on our badges. As you say the criteria was just submitting a piece of evidence but I wonder whether slightly more detailed criteria might be useful. Interesting to hear about your experience on the Coursera #HCIopen MOOC. I’ve read accounts of some other Coursera MOOCs were there was peer marking and feedback, which wasn’t always terribly helpful. I think this area will be a challenge for MOOCs just as it is many face to face courses.
      I agree medical students do study together and give each other feedback but they do also like to get feedback from their tutors. I’ve seen students show me feedback which comprised of two words, handrwritten and illegible, not much use really. We’ve been developing quite a few online tutorials for our students which prove popular because they include good formative feedback and they keep asking us for more of these.
      In terms of open badges in medical education I’m thinking about for example students developing their skills as teachers, so if they develop an online teaching resource which gets incorpoated into the curriculum they could receive a badge for online teaching resource development. This could then be supporting evidence to demonstrate outcomes related to the doctor as teacher. Thinking they could also apply in relation to students developing their digital literacy skills. It’s something I’m going to take a closer look at.

  3. I find the open badges movement really interesting. It’s early days in terms of takeup but I think that badges when implemented as a form of formative feedback and record of achievements during a course can be motivating and help mark important milestones in learning – and at a level of granularity that is meaningful, so that what is really important is highlighted. In the case of H817, the way the badges are set up indicates to me that gaining understanding of OERs and MOOCs is key to this open course – not sure if that is what the instructors intended but that is the message as I see it.

    While I would have liked feedback on the OER understanding badge, I assumed that we’d only get feedback if the post couldn’t be awarded the badge (for whatever reason), as the MOOC explicitly does not allow for direct instructor feedback and teaching.

    1. Hello Sukaina, I agree I think open badges offer interesting potential and the inclusion of badges on the #h817open MOOCs was one of the reasons I chose to sign up for it.
      For me it’s been an interesting learning experience and given me food for thought about how I might introduce them in some of my own teaching. It’s always useful to be in the position of a student and to see things from that perspective. Like you, and as I mentioned, I wasn’t expecting feedback, but I know that undergraduates crave feedback and I’d look to build that in when I come to use open badges.

  4. MOOC feedback – Peer assessment – echo chamber – so the system becomes gameable or at worst a failure to teach (Feedback is effectively quality control – but the other side of the coin).

    Open badges – need convincing that it won’t lead to a polyphony of unpenetrable skills? Can see the use for fun, but for proper things?

    1. I think it’s fine for all of us involved in higher education doing MOOCs and trying various ones our, but MOOCs as a model for the future of higher education I still question. Open badges have potential but there need to be clear criteria for what they’ve been awarded for so that for example a potential employer could see what it actually means and demonstrates understanding of or competency in.

  5. I think that a kind of rubric associated with the badge would be useful. That way there is some documentation of what criteria was met to receive the badge. With the OER u derstanding badge you had to have a “sufficient” post that was the right length but I thi k a bit more structure around sufficient would be good. In the LMS that I manage, a few lecturers use rubrucs to clearly outline what the student needs to strive for. I can see that rubruc association with an open badge would also be helpful for other people outside of the course to see the value of the badge. It woukd also be helpful for future reference for myself to remember what was OER understanding!

    1. Thanks Wendy, I agree. I think putting together this form of rubric should be relatively straightforward and would be very helpful.

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