My first week experiences of Surviving Disruptive Technologies MOOC

I’ve started my second MOOC through Coursera, herein labelled as #sdtmooc, which is its putative Twitter hashtag.
This is a significantly different experience from #edcmooc, the University of Edinburgh course I took previously. That was a constructivist learning experience, with a core of highly engaged participants who met and discussed virtually outside of the Coursera discussion forum ecosystem. This isn’t.
What follows now will appear critical – let me be clear, any criticisms are not of the course leader, or indeed of the content, more about the way in which the course is set up to run.


The course is written by Henry Lucas of University of Maryland, and would appear to be based on his textbook on the subject “The Search for Survival”.

Topics covered so far include the survivor model, the innovator’s dilemma, sustaining and disruptive technologies, the box score, organisations, and the demise of Kodak. This will be followed by lectures on the demise of Blockbuster and Borders. The minute that Clay Shirky’s phrase “Napster moment” is used is the time I will quit the course.

Structure and delivery

For #sdtmooc each week is divided into two classes, each of which has 4 short video lectures associated with it. Which when you join then together ,make 2 individual 1 hour lectures, so this doesn’t seem to be doing anything to challenge any educational paradigm. Each video lecture has a single multiple choice question embedded into it to check understanding. Or at least to check if you have been listening for the previous 8 minutes.

The video lectures consist of PowerPoint slides, with a talking head in the bottom corner, and some annotations made to slides as they are delivered. Not wildly exciting.

At the end of each class, participants are asked to use the discussion forums, to both start discussions and comment on those of others. One activity was to list your top 3 technical innovations of the last 25 years, with the reasons why chosen, and then to comment on the suggestions of others. A lot of participants identified the internet. This clearly ignores the fact it is over 25 years old, and their view of it was wholly utopian (shades of #edcmooc creeping in!).

As so often, I found the level of discussion disappointing and intellectually naive. But I accept that this is criticism of myself – I have no way of knowing the previous experience or expertise of other participants.

Initial Impressions

Honestly? The subject matter is interesting, and when we are hearing all the time that MOOCs are a disruptive technology that will affect Higher Education, this would seem to be a relevant course to take.

But I could have learned as much by reading the book. The course so far offers no more than a distributed version of a slightly dull traditional lecture course. The discussion forums have yet to take off with any detailed critique or analysis. And Twitter – well maybe I was spoiled with the way in which participants in #edcmooc used it, but so far there appears to be little happening to excite the twitterati!

I’ll carry on for another week, downloading the PowerPoint files for later reference.

One thought on “My first week experiences of Surviving Disruptive Technologies MOOC

  1. To be fair to the participants in Surviving DTs, the statement in the introduction to the first assignment included “…I would not go as far back as the wheel”, which indicated to me, at least, that we could go back further than 25 years.
    I seem to be taking much the same courses as you. I too, got a lot out of the E-Learning course, and became a little disinterested in the EDCMOOC conversations. I too am interested in the potential impact of MOOCs on higher ed. and am taking them so I can experience what they have to offer, and to learn the techniques used to deliver them.
    I actually like those MC questions in Surviving. – they make me reflect on what I am reading – I wish there had been same in the E-Learning course.
    What is becoming very clear to me are the individual differences in the way people appear to extract value from these MOOCs, and how personality traits in the social world spill into the digital world. You may remember one of the instructors in the E-Learning saying she is an introvert and that affects the way she responds it he digital environment, for example.

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