It's a trap!

I'm trying out a new MOOC - Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from
AMC’s The Walking Dead

I'm interested in learning and MOOCs generally, what with working for Futurelearn, the UK's online social learning platform, and since this course is using my new favourite zombie TV show, the Walking Dead, to explain the concepts, joining in was a no-brainer... Mmm, brains. (Sorry).

Tonight I made my first contribution to one of the lively discussion pages in the Public Health module.

Discussion fail amongst the Walking Dead

I don't think the terms of the course allow me to actually screenshot the page and show you, as it would come under the clause that says no part of the MOOC may be 'copied or reproduced' or some other restrictive stupidity intended to stop anyone sharing anything useful ever - the point of which is another post entirely - but you'll have to take my word that this is a quick approximation of the layout of the page. Or go sign up, but don't fall into this trap:

(And that is why they don't let me design the website!)

The idiot #1

So, which doofus do you think thought to herself: Hmm, I want to make a new post detailing my important and interesting thoughts about this question. How do I do this?

What shall I do? Oooh, there's a big button. That's probably the thing. It says 'Post'. Yeah, I wanna post! It's got a big + sign on it. I definitely want to ADD TO THIS DISCUSSION. Yeah!

That button has call to action written all over it, surely?

Nope. That button doesn't reply to this question. It posts a new thread in the whole forum, of which this page is just showing the one thread.

The less obvious than I would have liked

What I was supposed to do was type in the little box with the text in really low contrast indicating where I should add my reply. But the distracting shiny button!

And the size of the text box apparently has absolutely no bearing on the amount of text I might be entering, since other commenters are clearly writing loads more than would fit in that one line. (It opens up when you click in it, but it's not obvious without doing so).

The idiot #2

So muggins here just made a random post which now appears as a new thread, apropos of nothing, about CJD, in with: links to the other few discussions we've had in the past couple of modules, general questions from other students, sticky posts from course educators, and several other people making the same mistake I did. (It's probably worth pointing out that the other person I showed this to immediately recognised the text box as the place to write the comment, so YMMV).

The good

I am intrigued by their filters in the forum section: as well as the usual sorting by newest or oldest, there's a setting to choose 'Controversial', which I think is a genius idea. As far as I can tell, it's all the posts with similar numbers of up- and down-votes. I don't know if this comes with the forum software (if it is an off-the-shelf thing) or if someone there thought of how to implement it, but I haven't seen it anywhere else and I love it!

It reminds me of Secret Metafilter, which highlights older posts which may have fallen off the front page, but are still active - similarly the Controversial filter is a great way of showing off content that might not be immediately obvious from the usual sorts & filters.

The great

And I'm loving the videos, which I don't usually - any videos, anywhere on the Internet, unless they involve cats playing pattycake or puppies that can't get out of tents. I'm just not that kind of video learner, I hate the time wasted when I can read quicker and you can't copy & paste code snippets from videos. But the production values on these are through the roof - everyone's really well lit and made up, which sounds a bit shallow but I think it's important when you're dealing with an audience used to watching Walking Dead in high quality HD and competing with whatever attention-grabbing tactics are being used on Channel 4 while the laptop's out.

Anyway, the most important thing I figured out today is that in the event of a zombie apocalypse I will be heading to the UK version of the CDC to pick up some BSE prions, to see whether I can save the world by poisoning the hordes!