MIT Technology Review: What Are MOOCs Good For?

Justin Pope has an interesting article on MOOCs over at the MIT Technology Review.  This quote kind of sums up the theme: “Online courses may not be changing colleges as their boosters claimed they would, but they can prove valuable in surprising ways.”


MIT News: A MOOC Sees Its Greatest Impact In the Classroom At MIT

MIT News has an interesting article about the two versions of the Visualizing Japan course.  One version was a MOOC and the other was a face-to-face version of the course offered on the MIT campus which used the videos and quizzes from the MOOC.  The article is interesting in is look at the dual use of the MOOC content.


Inside Higher Ed: Try, Try Again

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Cal Straumsheim has an interesting article over at Inside higher Ed about Keith Devlin and his Introduction to Mathematical Thinking MOOC (offered through Coursera).  The MOOC is entering its 4th offering and Devlin talks about tweaks that have been made to boost student engagement.  These changes have increased student persistence through the first couple of weeks.

This is interesting in that it shows–as with all educational endeavors–that course offerings need to be reflected back on and adjustments made.  It does not require watering down the content to make a course more successful.  Critics also have to realize the completion rates for courses that are open for all to try are going to be lower that restricted access courses.  People are interested in trying things out.  But life does happen and some find that what they thought was interesting is not that engaging beyond a certain point.  We do not all need to be experts in all fields.  What is wrong with someone enrolling and taking away what they want to take away, even if it is short of completing the course.  Worry about complete of those who are taking it for credit and have to complete to finish a program.

The full post is here.

Sloan-C: Managing the MOOC Momentum

Sloan-C published a post by Robert Lytle of The Parthenon Group which provides 4 “Strategic Considerations” regarding MOOCs.  Those considerations are:

  1. MOOCs As Alternative Credit
  2. MOOCs In and Out of the Classroom
  3. MOOCs as a Threat to Institutional Financial Stability
  4. MOOCs as  a Marketing Force Multiplier.

The following infographic illustrates those considerations:

The full post is available here.


Chronicle: What if You Blended Adaptive Learning With MOOCs?


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.

Full story here.

UK Universities Forge Open Online Courses Alliance: FutureLearn Consortium Will Offer Uni-Branded MOOCs Starting Next Year

posted by Natasha Lomas at on December 13, 2012

The dynamic online learning space is about to get a little more crowded, thanks to the arrival of another group of established learning institutions who are joining forces — or rather pooling resources — to get into the brave new world of MOOCs. What are MOOCs? The short answer is ‘massive open online courses’ — typically free, conducted online and open to anyone who wants to participate (for a more detailed discussion of MOOCs, read this and watch this). There are now enough of these MOOCs out there they even have their own listings/review startup service (called CourseTalk).

Today’s news means even more MOOCs will be offered next year, as 12 UK universities are getting together to form a new company that will offer the online courses — under the brand name of FutureLearn Ltd. The universities are: BirminghamBristolCardiffEast AngliaExeterKing’s College LondonLancasterLeeds,  SouthamptonSt Andrews andWarwick, along with UK distance-learning organization The Open University (OU).

Several U.S. universities have already jumped aboard the MOOC mobile, including the likes of Harvard and MIT, and while FutureLearn’s partner universities are not the first UK universities to chase a slice of MOOC pie either — Edinburgh University, for example, joinedthe Coursera consortium in July — they appear to be the first such large group to set up a dedicated MOOC business located in the UK.

Full story here.

MOOCs: Too Much Hype, or Not Enough?

Dr. Jeff Borden, Pearson for

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.

Full article here.

MOOCs and Their Discontents


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 CourseraedX, 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?

Full post here.