Wednesday, July 31, 2013

More on MOOCs

Not surprisingly, MOOCs are increasingly a hot topic and now that some are being tried out, problems are sprouting. Here's a piece reporting on one such experiment. I wouldn't make too big a deal out of this apparent failure (at least if Udacity's reaction is anything to go by) for the technology is in its earlier stages and will no doubt improve.  What is worth noting in this piece starts at paragraph four onwards. The hype associates with MOOCs is nothing new. Moreover, what makes most salivate is not the immeasurable improvements to education that MOOCs will generate, but the COST SAVINGS and PROFITS that its biggest fans can clearly taste.  The piece reminds us that this is always so with new technologies. Moreover, it is always the case that boosters (those who have the most to gain) are optimistic and sell the innovations based on best case scenarios of what the new technology will bring.  Some believe (e.g. Brad  DeLong) that the good features of MOOCs can be harnessed and the downsides mitigated through careful monitoring of their implementation. I am less sanguine. When there is money to be made and saved and that it the primary attraction, then more hard to measure features, e.g. enhanced education, often give way.

This said, I have a modest proposal. If MOOCs are really the way of the future and their real attraction is their enhanced educational promise, then let's try them out FIRST in elite institutions. I suggest that harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Duke, etc. announce that in order to enhance the educational experience of their undergrads that they are going to shift to MOOCs in a big way. If it's the case that MOOCs really are better then students and their parents should be delighted to see them replace more stuffy, less educationally advanced methods of knowledge delivery. If MOOCs are all that they are cracked up to be, or can be all that they are so cracked, then let's experiment first with elite students and when the kinks are worked out, expand these to everyone else.

Call me cynical, but I suspect that this will be a hard sell at elite schools.  I don't see their "customers" rallying to MOOC style education. Of course, I might be wrong. Let's see.

1 comment:

  1. If they think they can get decent ones for $15K a pop they're deluded.,0,2408536.column
    Teams of dedicated amateurs and retired professional s would surely pull ahead in the long run.

    Making things accessible to really smart and determined poor people in remote places is a likely positive effect. Correspondence courses were a pre-MOOC fad from the 20's iirc, but my late father in law used them to go from truck driver to mechanical engineer in the 50s.