Carolyn introduce yourself, and can you make a short overview of your path to create MoocLab?
I’m Carolyn McIntyre – CEO of MoocLab.club. I’m British by nationality and am currently based near Ipswich in Suffolk, UK where MoocLab is run from. I was born and brought up in East Africa where my parents were working, and moved to the UK when I was 13 to pursue my education there. On finishing my Bachelor’s Degree in French and Psychology, I moved to France where I lived for 14 years before returning to my home country 10 years ago.
I became involved in the world of e-Learning about 18 months ago when my brother, Charles McIntyre, approached me to ask if I’d be interested in developing a website focussed on e-Learning. I decided to take him up on the challenge and jacked in my Sales & Marketing job in order to throw myself full time into the project. Having had no previous experience or knowledge of the e-Learning market, I spent the first couple of months scouring the internet familiarising myself with the market and the different types of offerings that were already out there. It became apparent that there was no e-Learning “hub” where I could access information and interact with others on the subject all in one centralised place. It was from this observation that the idea to create MoocLab grew.
What is MoocLab?
MoocLab is a community website that connects people to online learning via Discussion Forums, useful Tips & Guidelines, independent Reviews and Ratings of e-learning platforms, and News and Insights on e-Learning themes. My vision for MoocLab is to provide people with a comprehensive resource that can guide and help them with their online study, including school aged kids and their parents, Higher Education students, professionals and lifelong learners.
Is future bright for MoocLab?
MoocLab went live on September 15th 2014, launching at first as a simple discussion forum covering general discussion topics around MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and online learning. Gradually my vision for the website became clearer, and we have started adding useful content, such as Tips & Guidelines on e-learning, MOOCs and more, as well as independent reviews and ratings of platforms offering online courses. We are currently at the very beginning of our journey, and I see a very bright and exciting future for MoocLab which aims to become the central place of reference for all e-learning activity, providing a service to anyone wishing to pursue their education or training online. We are in the process of working on a makeover of the website, both in terms of design and functionality, so there’s most definitely a whole lot more to come!
What are your general thoughts on the quality of MOOC providers?
These are very exciting times when it comes to e-Learning. Many reports and studies have shown that the e-Learning industry is set to grow exponentially with an increasing number of individuals, corporations, and institutions turning to e-Learning as they recognize its effectiveness and its convenience. Check out for example, Top eLearning Statistics And Facts For 2015. This trend is also true for the MOOC market with the number of universities offering MOOCs having doubled in 2014. See A Review of MOOC Stats and Trends in 2014. Where MOOC providers are concerned, they are moving away from the initial concept of providing free education to students unable to afford the costly university campus-based courses, embracing the corporate learning industry instead. With the MOOC market not being what was first assumed, and with the need to create a viable business model, the 3 major MOOC providers, Coursera, Udacity, and edX, have each now introduced paid MOOC Specialization Programs offering their own credentials. Credentials is the new buzz word on the MOOC scene, and I believe 2015 will see some major developments in this area.
Although the MOOC movement is still dominated by the US, MOOCs have started to attract considerable attention in Europe with governments and universities jumping on board, and the emergence of a few European MOOC platforms, such as OpenupEd (pan-European), FutureLearn (UK), Iversity (Germany), FUN (France), Miríada X (Spain). Currently EU MOOC platforms are mainly concentrated in Western Europe, and serve a limited number of language communities (Institutional MOOC strategies in Europe), but I believe we will also see growth in the European MOOC market although this is likely to take on a different shape to that in the US given the cultural and language diversity known in Europe.
Your tips for students, who want to start their e-Learning journey?
Anyone looking to start learning online should carefully consider the reasons for taking an online course rather than a campus-based one. You have to be honest with yourself. It takes a lot of self-discipline and motivation to study a course online and you may be required to work without any face-to-face interaction with your teacher or classmates and often with little academic support. The following list of questions will help you decide if online learning is right for you:
1. Do you have a clear educational goal?
2. Are you good at managing your time?
3. Are you self-disciplined?
4. Are you good at working in isolation?
5. Do you have few other work/life commitments at the moment?
6. Are you able to schedule time to complete assignments without interference?
7. Are you able to take responsibility for accomplishing your assignments?
8. Do you have regular access to a computer and the Internet?
If you answered yes to at least 5 of the above questions, then you are on the right track.
What do you think of Courseholism and people that are taking too many courses?
I don’t think taking a lot of courses is a bad thing at all. We are in fact very privileged to live at a time where there is so much information accessible for free. Taking a lot of courses does however require good organisational skills and self-discipline. It is important to set yourself clear goals and decide what it is you want to study and why. Building a personal learning pathway with a schedule and goalposts will help with this.
Informal or Formal education?
People choose to study for different reasons. Some are looking to gain new knowledge and skills for academic or professional reasons, while others simply enjoy learning new things. In order to gain recognised credentials, formal learning is still the best option whereas informal learning provides a wealth of great opportunities to build on knowledge and skills and deepen understanding of particular topic areas.
That sounds reasonable. Do you have your own experience with e-Learning, by the way?
E-Learning is a very broad term and, for me, encompasses anything from googling the definition of a word to enrolling on a full online course. I use the internet every day to find information and to deepen my understanding of certain things. I have naturally also immersed myself in the world of e-Learning more recently to pursue my project with MoocLab. This has involved dipping into numerous online courses to understand how they work, how they are delivered and the overall learning experience they provide. Of course, I have also had to learn a lot about computer software and coding in order to build my website, and thanks to the amazing offering that e-Learning provides, I have been able to do this from the comfort of my desk.
Your final words, and a message to Youth Time readers?
Knowledge can be transmitted in many different formats, from a parent teaching a child a skill to a university degree. E-learning is simply another way to acquire new knowledge. It can be used independently or to compliment other learning. In either case, it offers huge scope to those who use it and will continue to develop and evolve as technology develops and evolves. Given the convenience and flexibility online learning offers, I would encourage Youth Time readers to explore its possibilities!
Photos: Carolyn McIntyre