MOOCs: Hyped, Humbled, Hardy

MOOC pioneer Sebastian Thrun. I'd feel a lot better about MOOCs if he took off those uber-geeky Apple computer-glasses.
MOOC pioneer Sebastian Thrun. I’d feel a lot better about MOOCs if he took off those uber-geeky Apple computer-glasses.

Not unexpectedly, after two years experience, the purveyors of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are re-evaluating their model for delivering educational services, according to the New York Times. It turns out that the jaw-breaking numbers of students enrolled in some MOOC courses — 160,000 in the case of on Stanford University professor’s course on artificial intelligence — really are too good to be true. A recent study of MOOCs indicates that only half of enrollees actually viewed a lecture, and only 4% completed a course. In a highly touted program at San Jose State, evidence suggests that students taking classes online performed worse than their peers in traditional classrooms.

Some critics of online learning no doubt will seize on these findings to crow about the superiority of the status quo. But they would do well to heed this line in the article: “Even the loudest critics of MOOCs do not expect them to fade away. More likely, they will morph into many different shapes.”

“It’s like, ‘The MOOC is dead, long live the MOOC,’ ” said Jonathan Rees, a Colorado State University-Pueblo professor who has expressed fears that the online courses would displace professors and be an excuse for cuts in funding. “At the beginning everybody talked about MOOCs being entirely online, but now we’re seeing lots of things that fall in the middle, and even I see the appeal of that.”

It’s been clear for some time, actually, that so-called “hybrid” learning, combining elements of online and face-to-face learning, may be the way forward. The experimentation and tinkering continues. “We’re moving from the hype to the implementation,” said MOOC pioneer George Siemens, who convened a meeting last week to discuss results. “It’s exciting to see universities saying, ‘Fine, you woke us up,’ and beginning to grapple with how the Internet can change the university.’”

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10 responses to “MOOCs: Hyped, Humbled, Hardy”

  1. I liken this to the false start where people thought they knew how to harness the internet for commerce but clearly had no clue.

    MOOC has enormous potential IMHO to revolutionize education but it’s not a panacea… to traditional education … and you cannot wave a magic internet wand over any field, including education and expect a seamless transition.

    as with anything else – a successful internet/computer transition takes two disciplines … first the internet/computer/ end of things but the second and just as important is the “content” expert – the person who actually works in that field and understands the field AND is willing to adapt it to the internet.

    Anyone who has worked someone where the business model was “computerized” knows the reality – that even under the best conditions, it can change the way you do business – you will NEVER replicate it 100%, and it can and is a disaster in the worst conditions and we got a flavor of that with

    one of the good/bad things that will happen is that really, really good instructors will prosper and marginal ones will twist in the wind and eventually wither away.

    What the internet is doing is honing the job… the people who are good will prosper and the people who fumble around will no longer get paid for fumbling.

  2. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    MOOC when refined into the various successful iterations will have a profoundly positive affect on Higher Educations.

    Once such iterations are integrated properly into the teaching and learning experience of colleges and universities, that teaching and learning experience will become far more powerful and more efficient. Costs will fall dramatically. Positive results will increase dramatically. Many intitutions that are failing in their mission today will vanish. Those that remain will educate far more far better. And everyone, including not least, the teachers will gain enormous benefits as will their students as well.

    Fifteen years from now, we will wonder how we got along without MOOCs. The truthful answer will be “Not very well at all.”

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    H a Ha Ha

  4. I actually am more hopeful and optimistic for the K-3 grades and let me explain why.

    listen to this 60 minute video:

    now if the tablet, done “right” can reach autistic kids.. then why not other kids like disadvantaged kids or for that matter ANY kid once you figure out what their learning style is?

    Some day – it won’t matter whether the kid goes to an urban school or a rural school or in between. The tablet will become the 21st century McGuffey Readers.

    by the time these kids get through high school, MOOC will become a phrase like ARPANET is today…

    I don’t worry about MOOC. Like Reed, I believe it is a foregone conclusion with only the timeframe in question.

    but I actually think MOOC is downstream of the computer/internet changes we need to see in K-3. We STILL need teachers.. always will but some kids will catch fire when they have an electronic McGuffey Reader… aka the tablet…

    and if you are an older kid growing up looking for a field that will have jobs.. think about this field… it has legs.

  5. The hybrid model has real potential and where I think MOOCs will actually end up. But there’s no way a hybrid model could handle 160,000 students in a single class.

  6. DJRippert Avatar

    “… 160,000 in the case of on Stanford University professor’s course on artificial intelligence — really are too good to be true. A recent study of MOOCs indicates that only half of enrollees actually viewed a lecture, and only 4% completed a course.”.

    4% of 160,000 = 6,400

    6,400 students started and completed the course.

    That sounds pretty impressive to me.

    Again, I would urge all MOOC pundits to actually sign up for a free course and take it. They range from CS to history to economics to art.

    I have done it. One thing I found is that college students are pretty smart and work very fast. It was a struggle to keep up.

  7. MOOC is where was initially IMHO. We can see the potential of it but we have some implementation issues to get sorted out.

    as time goes by – there will be a lot of failures… BUT there will be SOME successes and those successes will become models for others to emulate and it may well be the ace-in-the-hole for the US with respect to our dismal K-12 scores…

    we may well see charter/choice schools go to MOOC as a way to keep instructor costs down and still allow students to seek all manner of subjects that the school itself does not have the resources to provide on-site.

    Be prepared for new start-ups who specialize in MOOC.. it will be their total business model. They’ll hire top notch instructors but they leverage them with MOOC… and over time.. some of them will gain stellar reputations and people will flock to them to get cost-effective educations that will get them a job in the marketplace.

    College is going to become a prep-school type endeavor… if they are not careful.

    it’s going to happen.. just not as quick as people think.

  8. the other area that is going to expand..perhaps explode… is independent testing and authentication businesses.

    They’ll provide to employers, certified knowledge skills of individuals who have obtained their knowledge through a variety of ways to include traditional college AND MOOC.

    and it won’t be long, after that, before people start to recognize that people can become knowledgeable and competent WITHOUT attending a traditional bricks/mortar institution and worse.. that those who DO attend such institutions don’t necessarily do any better or even as well as those who gained certification through MOOC means.

    The people least ready for this – are the colleges and universities who are going to be essentially bypassed by folks using other options to become qualified for employment.

    I predict we’re going to see soon, if not already, the advent of companies who will “certify” your skills.. .no matter how you go them… sort of like the “boards” some professions have to pass to become (for instance) “professional engineers” or lawyers.

  9. Ghost of Ted Dalton Avatar
    Ghost of Ted Dalton

    MOOC’s are a failure. How many of you have attempted one?

    MOOCs are just like most of American society today…..they’re wonderful for the top 10% . And the bottom 90%? Good luck.

    I took an online course through the Harvard Extension School a couple of years ago. Not a great experience, but not awful either……HOWEVER, everyone in the class was sharp and it was contained. Still….the way that it worked, there were limited opportunities for interaction with students or instructors. So….again…..if you’re in the top 10% and keep up with the concepts….GREAT! If you fall behind…’s almost impossible to catch up.

    MOOCs are even worse for the bottom 90%. Once you’re behind, it’s game over.

    And that’s the bottom line. I think “Online Learning” (conducted by reputable schools and instructors as opposed to idiot machines like Phoenix and DeVry) could be a great tool for the Jim Bacons of the world……sharp guys who have themselves put together. The other 90% of the country? Good luck. Most people need a lot more interaction than MOOCs offer to “keep up.”

  10. and in this post is a “nugget”!

    “Most people need a lot more interaction than MOOCs offer to “keep up.” ”

    can we better define what that is?

    is it something that online can never offer and only bricks/mortar can or is it something that has to be added to MOOC to make it successful for more than the 10%?

    I keep asking – what exactly is the purpose of a teacher?

    it sounds like a dumb question (and maybe it is) ….

    but I know for a fact what the purpose of a teacher in k-3 is; there is no question that kids of that age “need” human interaction. It does not mean they cannot learn from “online” or a “tablet” but at some point they need to come back to the teacher…

    but as one gets older.. what doe sit mean?

    In Freshmen year in college, they put you in an auditorium with 200 others and the “instructor” can be a graduate assistant with a thick accent…

    is that better or worse than MOOC? why? why not?

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