One of the interesting projects I’ve been working on at the Australian National University has been to help out with a MOOC (massive open online course) on research supervision. Run by Inger Mewburn of Thesis Whisperer fame, “How to Survive Your PhD” is a free online course provided through edX, which aims to help research students build up their emotional resilience and get through the rollercoaster that is writing a thesis (mostly) unscathed. As Inger wrote in her blog post announcing the MOOC, the emotions of research study don’t go away when you finish, either!
(Those of you who’ve met me IRL might recognise me moonlighting as “research student” in the trailer! Think I can take up acting if this higher ed thing doesn’t work out?)
I’ve always been a bit of a MOOC skeptic myself, and didn’t believe the hype that they would necessarily bring free education to the world and improve society for the better. (Al Jazeera nicely covers some of these issues here.) I also worry that many MOOCs bring all the baggage of traditional, on-campus teaching online, without necessarily re-considering how online education will need to differ.
But I have to say, I’m excited about this course as an opportunity for PhD and research students more broadly to connect online and receive some of the support that is much needed. The focus on emotions, resilience, and community in this MOOC will hopefully benefit those struggling with their thesis.
So if you or someone you know is currently doing a research degree, I hope you might join us for this course. I’m also keen to hear your thoughts on MOOCs more broadly, and your experiences as a student (or moderator, or course creator) of MOOCs yourself.