Saturday, February 1, 2014

Day 14: no notifications, no way to continue

It's Saturday (three cheers for the weekend!), and last week was a more normal week for me, with student writing assignments and practice websites to respond to. It kept me busy all week (which is the norm), and now I will check back in at Janux History of Science, knowing that unless there they have built a notification system, this is not going to work for me. Even when I was able to hover over the course for the first two weeks, checking for interaction, it was extremely frustrating to not have notifications. Now that I am able to work only on weekends, without notifications it seems impossible. But I'm going to check in and see.

[Aside: I should note that the first thing I see when I open my browser is the handy Google+ notifications bar which appears at the top of the Google pages which I use; Google search is my homepage, so I know I have 8 notifications for me in Google+. That can wait, and I know it can wait - the notifications system in G+ is not perfect, but it works very well for the erratic way in which I am able to find time for G+ both during the week and on weekends.]

So, using Chrome, I am logging in to Janux. The "recent activity" stream shows 22 items, but, as usual, I have no way of knowing which items are "connected" to me, either by being replies to my posts or replies to my replies. There's also no way to clear the stream by clicking things off as read even if I were motivated to try to use this stream to find items relevant to my course activity.

So, my only alternative is apparently to go through the discussion boards one by one, looking for replies to my posts, and also hoping to find replies to my replies (you know... dialogue).

I posted in the Week 2 online resources board.  A nice reply from Kerry, and I replied to him. The odds of him ever seeing that reply seem low indeed, unless instructors perhaps have a notification system different from the student system. There is also a good suggestion from another student in the class about a resource that would benefit the class next time around; the odds of Kerry having seen his suggestion are low (even though it is a reply to a board in which he is participating; normally, a discussion board would allow you to request to be notified of such an event). I left a reply for that reply too, although the odds of the person ever seeing it seem practically zero.

Since activity is so low on this board (I don't think there are more than a dozen people even participating in the open side of the course...?), I was in fact able to easily find the reply I left for another student on his post; no reply to my reply.

Another board where I posted last week has another long comment from Kerry (although I feel badly; he should not be having to take time to do this with all the rest of the work he has to do). I added a reply to Kerry, not knowing if he will see it or not, and I almost feel badly about that since I really don't want him to take time to relpy. The idea with an open course like this is that the students, not the instructor, should be sustaining the discussion.

I had also posted in the origins of ancient astronomy board last week; no reply to my post. Of the 8 comments there, 4 have no replies at all, 3 have only 1 reply (probably unread by anyone), and 1 has 2 replies, but not a back-and-forth dialogue; the original poster did not reply to the reply. Probably that person has not read either of the 2 replies. We need some kind of "interactivity rating" to apply to discussion boards; the interactivity rating here would surely be extremely poor, almost non-existent.

Finally, I had also posted in the starting assumptions board last week; no reply to my post. Again, 8 posts, 5 with no replies at all, 1 with 1 reply, and 2 with 3 replies including, glory hallelujah, a reply to a reply I had left on someone else's post... an actual conversation: my first and only almost-conversation here at Janux in two weeks of dedicated participation. So, I left a reply to that reply, but in the absence of notifications, I suspect the person will never get it - but it would be a dialogue very much worth continuing, if only the software actually facilitated dialogue.

So, those are the boards for last week. There might have been something back in the boards from Week 1 where I also participated in multiple boards (four or five; I can't remember). But I have no motivation to go through those boards, digging around wondering if maybe there was a reply to a post or a reply to a reply. It's futile: either I will discover no replies (which is depressing) or else I will discover replies, knowing that if I reply to those replies, the person will surely never ever see what I write (even more depressing).

In sum, a discussion board system like this really cannot promote interaction without notifications, and what a shame that NextThought apparently devoted no thought to that at all. I had complained about the lack of notifications to a NextThought staff member some months ago, way back in September, but now the NextThought webpage does not list that person on staff anymore. Maybe she was in charge of notifications, ha ha. Anyway, she is gone. I wonder if anyone at NextThought is working on notifications now.

For now, anyway, the Janux platform will not work for me. If I am going to just be writing for myself, I would rather do that in a blog, so that I can easily share what I am writing with others and also link to the blog posts in conjunction with the other teaching and learning that I am doing online. But that's it - I'm done here, just another MOOC dropout.

Meanwhile, I will carry on with the sundials, a project I never would have started without this class. In a separate post, I will explain about how my sundial project depends absolutely on the world of open knowledge and sharing on the Internet... a culture that apparently the folks at Janux do not understand very well at all. Even within their closed-off space, they have not built a system that supports sharing and conversation, much less making connections with the world outside their closed space.

I'll also write up a post comparing this MOOC experience to my other three MOOC experiences. Janux was both the best (content) and the worst (software) of those four MOOCs. Of the other three, I finished two and dropped out of one. Dropping out of Janux now brings my MOOC drop-out count to two and two. Which still puts me above the MOOC drop-out rate average, ha ha.

No comments:

Post a Comment