The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a look of two of the most cited “game-changing” technologies: MOOCs and Adaptive Learning software. In a recent letter to Obama from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology it was suggested MOOCs could reduce higher ed costs and improve access. If so, adaptive learning software could play a role. One of those quoted in the article is Michael Feldstein of MindWires, and formerly a member of Cengage Learning’s team to build tools to personalizing the company’s digital content that supported their textbooks. Feldstein sees a “natural marriage” between MOOCs and adaptive software. He believes it could fill a role in compensating for the absence of hand-holding in MOOCs.
Dr. Jeff Borden, Pearson for Wired.com
Earlier this month, I went to an eLearning conference in Saudi Arabia and again, the topic of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, came up. But, they were discussed very differently at this conference than I have described in past posts. For the past few years, I have noted that MOOCs are the easiest way to get attendance at eLearning conference presentations. About 25-35% of conference sessions talked about the – mostly from a, “How You Can Do It” perspective although there were always a few asking if we should, “Believe The Hype?”
But at this conference, it was stated as official — “The Hype Is Over.” This was stated emphatically by both an American keynote presenter and by the Director of eLearning for the main University in the Kingdom. They both noted that MOOCs were just simply given too much credit out of the gate and that they often took away from the real conversation of eLearning.
Obviously, the folks at Coursera or Udacity would likely disagree with this position, but what about those without a stake in the race? Are MOOCs dying or are they here to stay?
I’ve blogged a lot about MOOCs in the past. It’s been hard not to if you’re an education blogger. But I’ve noted the problems with first generation MOOCs. Not to belabor the point, but we now know that most xMOOCs (meaning those with a broadcast, top-down model vs a “cMOOC” — the ‘c’ stands for constructivistic), are taken by people outside of the U.S. They are not generally taken for the credit but for an individual “module” of content, hence the seriously low completion numbers. More often than not, they are taken by people who already hold degrees. They utilize a peer to peer evaluation methodology that has proven quite challenging (after all, how often do you find 10,000 people who can really help guide the other 90,000 on a difficult or complex topic?). And on and on.
To say that MOOCs propagate inequality is to deny their fundamental mission and the thinking that conceived them.
Coded into the DNA of MOOCs (the unwieldy acronym for Massive Open Online Courses) is a profound sense of social, educational, and economic justice. MOOCs are courses from the world’s premier institutions of higher learning offered on a variety of platforms, the most notable of which are Coursera, edX, and Udacity. They aim to bring the knowledge and expertise housed in the most selective public and private universities and deliver them to anybody around the world who has little more than a computer or tablet and a working internet connection.
They are inherently egalitarian; the fundamental principle that guides them is to universalise the availability of knowledge and human understanding from the widest possible variety of academic fields. Anant Agarwal, the president of edX,said in a recent interview, “Education is our cause. It’s really important that people around the world have access to a great education, much like the air we breathe.”
All of these points ignore the most glaring error of [Kendzior’s] article, which is to have neglected the question, what is a MOOC, and what isn’t it?
Buck Goldstein, University Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of North Carolina, writes about his experience teaching a MOOC. He is right that the bar for high quality, flashy courses through one of the big commercial platforms is going to cost both time and money.He estimates that the cost to produce his MOOC was $150,000.
His story is interesting, though I think his use if the word naive is apropos. Entering an arena so highly hyped as MOOCs and having to have a flashy video production, is going to cost money. I was recently in the first Moodle MOOC and they did a fine job with the course on a shoestring. It even had live interactive sessions.
The Coursera Blog has an interesting post about its new experiment in MOOCs–Learning Hubs.
At Coursera, we envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education. We strive to create and deliver experiences that break down daily barriers that stand in the way of successful learning. Today, in support of our goals, we’re delighted to announce a new initiative- Coursera Learning Hubs – that will offer people around the world physical spaces where they can access the Internet to take a Coursera course, while learning alongside peers in an interactive, facilitated setting. All for free.
Essential to this initiative are our new and future partners, international and local organizations who share our vision and can provide on-the-ground support by offering a physical space for learning, reliable Internet access, and local course facilitators. We welcome the U.S. Department of State as a major Learning Hubs partner, as well as Bluebells School International and Lady Sriram College for Women,Digital October, Overcoming Faith Academy Kenya (in collaboration with PiCreate and Tucklets.org),Learning Links Foundation, TAPtheTECH, and LEARN. TT and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT). Together, these partners will bring Learning Hubs to initially more than 30 Embassies, American Spaces, campuses, and other physical locations worldwide:
As they describe in this press release, these new Learning Hubs “will offer people around the world physical spaces where they can access the Internet to take a Coursera course, while learning alongside peers in an interactive, facilitated setting.” Initial partners for the program include the US Department of State, and a variety of international universities and private learning organizations.
Apparently, the program grew out of discussions with State Department personnel interested in finding an inexpensive and effective way to deliver educational programs via US embassies. And recognizing that anywhere/anywhen online learning doesn’t have to contradict the notion of people working together in a shared space, Coursera decided to programitize the idea around three delivery models for blended learning.
- Discussion based – Where a facilitator would manage conversation around a week’s course lectures and encourage students to continue the conversation on the Coursera discussion boards
- Tutoring based – Where the facilitator would both lead discussion and support students on their weekly assignments
- Project based – Where the facilitator would work with the class to come up with a set of projects students can work on independently or together to supplement regular course work
Georgia Institute of Technology has partnered with AT&T and MOOC start-up Udacity to offer a completely online Master’s degree in Computer Science. That degree will cost only $7,000, rather than the $40,000 it would cost non-Gerogia residents. It hopes to offer the degree to 10,000 students over three years and to only hire a handful of staff to facilitate the project. Udacity staffers–called mentors–will be used to fill the gap.