Enter the MOOC Masochists

[Data finds a drink unpleasant – the first time ever he has this emotion.]
Data: “I hate this! It is revolting!”
Guinan: “More?”
Data: “Please!”
Star Trek – Generations

Following the comments in the … not so good MOOC, I realized that I have overlooked a fourth way to deal with really, really, REALLY bad MOOCs: masochism. Just wallow in the pain and find the beauty in it.

In every MOOC there are people who think that bad teaching is actually good. For example:

“There is that mustard seed in most given situations. Even low-rated or what some might find as negative can be quite illuminating, and could teach some of us lessons in tolerance, humility and patience.”
Course Participant in an Coursera Course


“I feel that people should at least think about(if not adopt) the philosophy that everything in life is a learning experience. Covering all aspects from super positive to super negative, everything has a lesson in it. It may end up being that the lesson is simple or small, but it’s still there.”
Course Participant in an Coursera Course

I guess the argument is that it provides them with opportunities to learn. And yup, I think that you can learn a lot from bad teaching if you are studying teaching. I think that for learning the subject matter, it is much better to have a great course with great materials. Really great, not the instructors opinion. Learning is not religion, you should see and experience the quality, not take it all on faith.

Or how another participant put it beautifully:

“Learning should not need to be something that is “endured.” I have too many other more engaging possible opportunities to invest my time in self-education and challenges through reading, webinars, tutorials,.. and other MOOC’s, so I will probably sample another week’s worth of videos and decide if it is worth investing my time. Life is too short and my time too valuable to spend on something if I have to force myself to watch it.”
Course Participant in an Coursera Course

Why should you willingly participate in a badly done course just to prove that you can or sift through the rubble for a few gems, when other courses allow you to gain not only more but are more fun? Life offers enough challenges, I need my resources for real issues. And while you can learn something from bad situations, that’s a far cry from asserting that everything happens for the best:

That some good can be derived from every event is a better proposition than that everything happens for the best, which it assuredly does not.
James K. Feibleman

On the plus side — it seems the instructors have reacted at least partly to the comments in the forums. But it will be the quality of the next lecture videos that will make or brake the course for me. After all, what’s the use of an interesting and useful topic if you cannot communicate it. And giving the topic of the course there is something to be said for leading by example.