Will people know what that means, in a few years? "Like clockwork"? The "work" inside a digital timepiece isn't as visible as the delicately moving gears of an old mantel clock.
But there I go, showing my age again.
Smooth operation is one of my two main goals for any course, along with clear and effective pedagogy. In a large class – even 100 students, though that's tiny on the MOOC scale – malfunctioning systems or sloppy course organization can be as obstructive to students as poor instruction. I often teach large classes on campus, and am so persnickety about how they are run that teaching assistants wonder about the deep-seated neuroses I must surely have. Apologies to them, but my aim is that students should be able to focus on subject matter with minimal time spent on course logistics.
With 28,000 students, my persnicketiness comes in very handy. The current run of 2.1X has been so smooth that it's strange to recall the squawking that sometimes drowned out all else in the forum last year. I've become so much better at running MOOCs.
Based on experience from Spring 2013, 2.1X schedules and deadlines were simplified and displayed more prominently, expectations were made clearer and more explicit, work during exam weeks was lightened (no graded exercise sets), and basic instructions were repeated in every possible place. EdX has greatly improved its platform: it rarely crashes, things work as expected, and this year there is more flexibility and ease of operation for instructors and course engineers.
I believe we've now got the structure of 2.1X to a point where it is genuinely feasible to make the logistics work for any future run with barely more than the flip of a switch.
This kind of thing freaks out the people who are worrying about "faculty being replaced" by online courses. I'm not so worried about that. The next post will be about things the machine can't do.