“Much ado about MOOCS!”

Several months ago I read about https://www.coursera.org/.  I immediately thought it is an interesting and exciting concept.  Though suspicious of its quality, value, and long-term viability, I gave it the benefit of the doubt because I know and think very highly of a  faculty member teaching a course on evolution…and the institutions represented are among the top.  I threw it out to students on Facebook, asking them if this type of education represents a “revolution”…I got one response, a simple like and a question “Are the courses any good?”

Next, I through it out to a number of faculty at Virginia Tech to ask if they had heard of such a thing and what they thought about it.  This generated significantly more conversation, most of which was focused around the following questions:

  1. How are courses, faculty, and institutions chosen to participate?
  2. How do faculty get credit for this type of teaching?
  3. How is student learning and participation evaluated?
  4. What do the student-student and student-faculty interactions look like?
  5. Who is paying for this service?  If it is the university, is that a reasonable cost?
  6. How is the quality of courses monitored and maintained?

Just last week, my interest in these questions was reignited when I received my regular article from the Tomorrow’s Professor e-newsletter out of Standford.  The article, Much Ado about MOOCS, was originially posted at the end of 2012 in the AAUP’s publication.  Though the article raised a number of questions about MOOCS (including some of those above), one statement in particular gave me pause, wondering what the alternatives are and how many faculty are prepared to serve in the digital realm…The possibilities are myriad, but the success of MOOCs will depend on the degree to which faculty members are involved in the entire process, from development to testing and credentialing.

Another piece that I spent some time thinking about is the low MOOC completion rate while, at the same time, many are convinced that MOOCs are the new solution to challenges in access to education.  Apparently the Gates Foundation is funding some pilot studies on MOOCs to improve the success of underrepresented and first generation student in college…I am anxious to hear the outcomes of those pilots!  One is at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where I will be traveling in a few weeks.

A number of other things shocked me, of course.  At the time of the writing of the article, only Colorado State University is known to be offering university credit for a single MOOC, an introduction to computer science.”  I was also surprised (though I shouldn’t be) that there is a bit of a rush of folks trying to make a profit from MOOCs.

Your thoughts on MOOCS?


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