IVMOOC Reflections

So IVMOOC has been over for quite some time now. Looking back on the experience, I consider it to be a personal success. The first half of the course was interesting, and gave a good space for practise with tools and refinement of the skill set needed for visualization. The midterm and final were shenanigan-laden and badly designed assessment, but the instructors have made great steps to address the issues and commit to improvements.

The second half of the course, the client projects, was where things really picked up for me. Initially I wanted to work on the CoBRA, the Comic book readership archive, but couldn’t find a group. I saw that some of the other students that tweeted within the course Kristin (@cysiphist) and Max Kemman (@MaxKemman) had settled on a project and group. I asked if the group was full, and quickly joined.

Was that ever a good choice.

This was the first time in many MOOCs that I’ve actually stayed for the project part. Usually I left because I didn’t want a virtual team hassle and other team members not pulling their weight. This was entirely not the case. I had lucked into joining a team of like-minded professionals. Teh-Hen, Dulce, Max and Kristin are amazing people to work with. Each person worked without prompting, and worked in an area of the project that they felt most comfortable in. They also picked up slack without question or complaint, as I had life bulldoze over me during the final report write-up. I can’t say enough good things about the group, and they made working on the project fun and the course entirely worthwhile. If all MOOC group projects went like this, then they would be amazing. At least this one has inspired me to stick around for others.

The project was really interesting too. Visualizing the networks and relationships represented in the Digital Humanities Quarterly. If you’re interested, you can take a look at our work here. Dulce and I worked separately, yet with many parallel approaches to collecting, cleaning and validating the data. I also worked on documenting the process, creating and posting all of our work on the github repo, and creating the front page. The project let me stretch out and gain some new skills in R (web scraping, a lot of use of dplyr, magrittr, rmarkdown, shiny). I had some plans that didn’t quite make it there, which was a shiny-app portraying some of the wordcloud analysis from Dulce and Kristin side-by-side.

We’ve been asked to allow the project to be used as an example for future years, and have been asked by the DHQ to work on a paper. Not bad for what I originally had slated as a ‘fun learning experience’. I also managed to walk away with a certificate and badge for my efforts. Break out the digital scout sash. The skills I’ve learned from the course have already translated to my job and other professionally related work, as I’m finding applications for the user-driven workflow and many of the analysis techniques that can be applied to assessment and learning in higher education.

I’ve got to wrap this post up, as it’s long overdue. I learned a great deal about information visualization, but perhaps the most important lesson was to put faith in the other people in the course, and actually give the group parts of MOOCs a chance. Maybe you’ll end up pleasantly surprised.