Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Monday Morning MOOCWatch

with 2 comments

Steven D. Krause takes Duke’s composition MOOC and comes away unimpressed.

So again, MOOCs exemplify the problem of scalability of teaching (versus content), and content does not equal teaching. If all it took was content for students to learn something and/or if teaching– actual small group interaction with a teacher and a group of students– wasn’t necessary for students to succeed or for learning to be assessed, then “Education” wouldn’t exist.  Instead, we would just have some kind of system that makes content available to students (online or in books, for free or for some kind of cost) so they can read that content and complete the exercises. Then students could finish the assignments and send them in (probably for some kind of fee) to have them evaluated for credit. Simple as that.

Except that doesn’t turn out to work.

Real college classes have writing assignments and required reading.

The trend should be clear now: MOOC providers don’t want to scare off potential students with too much work. Talk about teaching in a strait jacket! This is exactly why higher education should never be privatized in the first place. It degrades the quality of the product…a lot.

I’m sorry if this bursts anyone’s bubble, but watching videos on the Internet and maybe writing a few very short essays that the professor never sees isn’t college. Real college classes have writing assignments and required reading. Real college classes require access to the professor. To say MOOCs like these can somehow replace an actual college education is tantamount to fraud.

“Absent strong leadership, however, there is a high probability that any productivity gains from online education will be used to gild the education/research lily,” [Bowen] writes in the book.

Bowen also takes the hype about MOOCs with a grain of salt.

“Missionaries don’t particularly want their methods tested – they are missionaries after all,” he warned.

The missionaries include MOOC providers, the media, administrators and business-minded higher education policymakers, Bowen writes.

“There is a real danger that the media frenzy associated with MOOCs will lead some colleges and universities (and especially business-oriented members of their boards) to embrace too tightly the MOOC approach before it is adequately tested and found to be both sustainable and capable of delivering good learning outcomes for all kinds of students,” he writes.

Bowen also predicts coming debates about faculty governance and intellectual property as faculty members team up to teach courses or use an online course from another institution to aid them in their own classrooms.

“It’s less possible to talk about my course – quote, unquote; you have to talk about ‘our course,’ ” he said.

* The meme hustler.

However, it’s not his politics that makes O’Reilly the most dangerous man in Silicon Valley; a burgeoning enclave of Randian thought, it brims with far nuttier cases. O’Reilly’s mastery of public relations, on the other hand, is unrivaled and would put many of Washington’s top spin doctors to shame. No one has done more to turn important debates about technology—debates that used to be about rights, ethics, and politics—into kumbaya celebrations of the entrepreneurial spirit while making it seem as if the language of economics was, in fact, the only reasonable way to talk about the subject. As O’Reilly discovered a long time ago, memes are for losers; the real money is in epistemes.

* And even the liberal New Republic… MOOCs of Hazard.

And yet it’s one thing to expect brilliant teens or medical students to be self-starters. It’s another to teach students who are in need of close guidance. A recent report from the Community College Research Center at Columbia finds that underprepared students taking online courses are, according to one of the authors, “falling farther behind than if they were taking face-to-face courses.” Michael Crow, one of the architects of Fathom and now president of Arizona State University and certainly no traditionalist, warns against a future in which “rich kids get taught by professors and poor kids get taught by computer.”

2 Responses

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  1. The one thing I’d say is it isn’t so much that I’m “not impressed” but rather I just don’t think this is going to work. Though one thing that I need to blog about soon (today or tomorrow, hopefully) is the beginning of the peer review process. That will be interesting to see how it goes.

    Steve Krause

    April 2, 2013 at 10:38 am

    • Yes, definitely keep us updated! I’m very curious how the peer review will work myself.


      April 2, 2013 at 11:31 am

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