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Massively Open Online Course on Planning Online Courses Collapses
February 4, 2013 10:46 AM   Subscribe

A MOOC on planning and running MOOCs run by a leading MOOC company has spectacularly collapsed

MOOC background links....
What is a MOOC?

It's a looming tsunami, traditional universities are freaked out

Never mind free online courses, will their for-profit versions ever make money?
posted by Bwithh (57 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
It looks like was shut down due to the course leader's inability to handle the demand (41,000 students for a single course? Most universities aren't big enough to handle 41,000 students for all offered courses).

The only real failure is in not limiting registration. For having this happen to a class relevant to planning online classes is more irony than anything else.
posted by ardgedee at 10:54 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not the technical glitches and software incompetence that make the "physician, heal thyself" irony so rich here, it's the way the failure highlights the course's lack of all the components of competent teaching in general — the total absence of planning, communication, respect for students' time and experience, or clear pedagogical goals. Maybe faculty should only be taught MOOC pedagogy in small, in-person groups!
posted by RogerB at 10:55 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bunch of mooks.
posted by yoink at 10:55 AM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dammit yoink!
posted by Mister_A at 10:56 AM on February 4, 2013


It's a looming tsunami, traditional universities are freaked out


Time I let the cat out of the bag. 14 years ago I chatted with Paul Gray, then MIT's corporation chairman, about something else, and he disclosed to me that MIT was planning on something like what EDX looks like today, as a way of answering the competition from the likes of University of Phoenix.

Coursera (sponsored by Stanford & Co) and EdxOnline (MIT, Harvard, & Co) are a way for traditional universities to say "here's what the University of Phoenix offers in exchange for a lot of money, available from us, free of charge. THe only difference is we call the outcome a certificate and they call it a degree."

As the links above show, the completion rates for these online MOOCs are low. I should know. I count among the drop outs of MIT's 6.002x course, but I never intended to take the final exam and get a certificate. I just wanted to relearn the material.

These MOOCs are a way of driving out of business the online scammers like UoPhoenix, and demonstrating that there remains a lot of value in enrolling in college in the flesh. (And give anyone with a net link the chance to learn interesting stuff for free.)
posted by ocschwar at 11:02 AM on February 4, 2013 [37 favorites]


I'd like one more use of "MOOC" in that opening sentence.
posted by Area Man at 11:05 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


This reminds me a lot of that failed Kickstarter project for a book on how to do successful crowdfunding.
posted by baf at 11:12 AM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Or that really successful play about staging a failure.
posted by ODiV at 11:15 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


A couple of my friends were signed up for this course, and the initial communications had been, to their minds, examples of how NOT to run a MOOC. They were hoping it would turn out to be Socratic style teaching, but ... it was not to be.
posted by spindrifter at 11:20 AM on February 4, 2013


Interesting read. I have been a (non-online) college professor for sixteen years now and am very interested in what has been going on recently with MOOC's. I'm actually enrolled in a macro-economics course through Coursera starting in March and I'm curious what the experience will be like. I've never done any online learning so hoping it will be eye-opening. On the flip side, I'm also doing some contract work with one of the big online for-profit universities so it will be interesting to see the differences in the approaches of the two.
posted by misterpatrick at 11:23 AM on February 4, 2013


Don't tell me, they warped their Titan instead of bridging
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:24 AM on February 4, 2013 [33 favorites]


...will their for-profit versions ever make money?

This is like asking if raising kids or throwing a potluck will ever make money. If you even think to ask, you are doing it completely wrong.
posted by DU at 11:29 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, that highered piece is a hilariously hysterical.
posted by empath at 11:29 AM on February 4, 2013


I count among the drop outs of MIT's 6.002x course, but I never intended to take the final exam and get a certificate. I just wanted to relearn the material.

I finished the 6.002 IRL version, but only to get a certificate and I never really learned the material. And while many more than 4% of the class passed the final, it sure as hell wasn't 100%.

But for reals, 13 years ago when I was an MIT freshman, I was part of an experimental section in 6.001 aka Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, the introductory computer science course. While most students when to lecture as usual, my section of 30? or so were required to watch a Powerpoint+voiceover lecture online, complete a small set of relatively simple problems (as in you had to do them until you got them right), and still attended a regular recitation. That set up worked BRILLIANTLY for me. By all rights I should have failed that class and gone on to become a bio major right then and there, but instead I did quite well in the class. Turns out that forcing students to see the lecture AND work on a problem until they get it right is the best learning structure for me. My 6.001 was 60% an online class and it was one of the best classes I took at the Institute. (On the other hand, it was also one of the few classes I took that actually thought about teaching methods.)
posted by maryr at 11:37 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


FADE IN

EXT. FIELD DAY

COW is standing in the field.

NARRATOR:
     The cow is sad.
     (Pretending to be a mournful cow.)
     MOOOOOOOC.

(hat tip)
posted by Nomyte at 11:37 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is like asking if raising kids or throwing a potluck will ever make money. If you even think to ask, you are doing it completely wrong.

And it's not like there isn't quite a good (40 year old) example of doing it right.

Although, I tend to think they've gone downhill since they quit making kipper ties obligatory for their late-night lecturers.
posted by titus-g at 11:43 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Someone should build a MMORPG based on planning and running MMORPGs. Players would have hulking battleaxe-wielding avatars like in World of Warcraft, but the game would consist of these characters sitting in cubicles monitoring forums and answering customer service inquiries.
posted by oulipian at 11:43 AM on February 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


It looks like was shut down due to the course leader's inability to handle the demand (41,000 students for a single course? Most universities aren't big enough to handle 41,000 students for all offered courses).

I was on this course, and I've been on several others on Coursera. This wasn't the biggest course on Coursera, by any means (Think Again: How To Reason and Argue, an intro to philosophy course, has over 100K I think). The size wasn't the problem, the problem was the way it was run.

How these courses tend to work is you get weekly video lectures, and sometimes readings. Assessment is by either multi-choice quiz, scored automatically, or by short essays, scored by peers. There are sometimes Google Hangouts, or Skype conferences. They also have discussion forums, which tend to be hard to follow unless you're willing to spend a lot of time there, due to the volume of posts (and the threaded comments....).

As the article says, what went wrong here was that they wanted to put people in groups. But instead of automatically assigning people to groups, they created a Google Docs spreadsheet and asked people to form their own groups. I missed this, but it was, predictably, chaos.

As a second run, they set up a forum and told people to form groups in the forum. This would have worked if people had followed the fairly obvious instructions: "start a thread to create a group. If a thread has less than 21 comments, post your name as a comment. You are now a member of that group." Problem was, people started discussing things in the group threads, so that a thread with 40 comments might only have 10 members. Added to that, a over-zealous TA started creating 100s of groups. So when I went into the forum I found 100s of threads, some of them with dozens of replies, some of them with none. It was impossible to work out.

They then went for a third option "click here and we will assign you to a group". I tried this, but it never worked. They then abandoned the course. Annoyingly, Coursera has an easy way for instructors to set up peer assessment, which I think was the main reason for putting people in groups.

They also had problems with having two different pages that had links to video content, some of which linked to the regular Coursera-style videos, some to 300MB MP4 files that people were having problems downloading (it's a global course, not everyone has unlimited broadband). There were other minor issues, but those were the main ones.

Like spindrifter's friends I honestly wondered if it was Socratic teaching - doing things wrong so that we would, as a group, solve the problems. Judging by the forums I wasn't the only one.

I want to stress: Coursera as a whole is amazing. The Science Fiction course was excellent, Think Again is good, and I've just started E-Learning and Digital Cultures, which looks promising. This course just didn't get things right.
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:43 AM on February 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'd never noticed edX before, and looking at their site, I just want to make sure I'm not missing something:

The main page of the website shows 25 courses, each with big banners, and looks to me like a sampler page. So I clicked on the "Find Courses" link, and was brought to what looks like the same page, different URL.

Are there more courses hidden somewhere? Or are those 25 exactly and totally what they currently offer?
posted by Flunkie at 11:43 AM on February 4, 2013


These MOOCs are a way of driving out of business the online scammers like UoPhoenix, and demonstrating that there remains a lot of value in enrolling in college in the flesh.

I have no doubt that these are among the reasons someone might want to develop MOOCs or MOOC-like things. But there's enough else going on in the institutional politics of higher education that I don't think either a counterattack against for-profit online "universities" or halo-effect advertising for participating institutions are the only motivations for them. First, because administrations are always looking for what they call "efficiencies" in teaching (that is, ways of cranking out more courses and degrees per faculty-salary dollar), and second, because there are plenty of for-profit ventures in MOOCland itself at the moment (e.g. Coursera, the host of the course in question, is a VC-funded startup, not an extension of a not-for-profit university as you implied).
posted by RogerB at 11:44 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


edX: Or are those 25 exactly and totally what they currently offer?

That's it.
posted by procrastination at 11:51 AM on February 4, 2013


And it's not like there isn't quite a good (40 year old) example of doing it right.

Pretty sure public schools are more than 40 years old.
posted by DU at 11:55 AM on February 4, 2013


I'm currently taking a MOOC, from Stanford in fact, although interestingly it's not through Coursera. It's my first time taking any formal on-line class and my first time dealing with academia in 20 years.

The dynamics are interesting, in the best Chinese curse sense of the word. The associated forum is built with the most ambitious forum software I've ever seen, everything is dynamic and fluid - I find it pretty confusing. The forum and the exercise/quiz software are both sort of works in progress, not entirely free of bugs and problems. The forum is full of both amazingly clueless questions and incredibly pompous know-it-all answers. The lectures are YouTube embeds, and somehow they play in some browsers but not in others.

So there are many wrinkles that really should have been ironed out before the course was scaled up to this size. With 25K active students or so, it's no surprise that the challenge of the material combined with the technical problems adds up to a steady stream of poisonous flame-outs in the forum.

I think what a lot of the angry students have forgotten is that academia has traditionally been sort of lackadaisical and ad-hoc about these logistic issues. I took several in-person, conventionally-sized college classes that had similar problems.

We live in a blessed time where many on-line commercial services are offered to us for free, and perversely enough, the competition among those free services is if anything even more intense than it is for paid services. Those that haven't got their ducks in a row sink quickly. As a result we've been spoiled a little; we expect anything that happens in our web browsers to be free and to work as smoothly as Facebook or GMail.

I think that might be an unrealistic standard to hold an academic institution to, particularly in a situation where there's no revenue stream associated with the free class at all. It's obvious Stanford and other academic MOOCs are trying to take a relatively tiny amount of resources and teach unprecedented numbers of people at once; that's exciting and commendable. But one should keep in mind that the cutting edge is where all the bleeding happens, and the people that made the cutting edge are doing most of the bleeding, learning as they go.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:59 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I totally agree!
posted by carsonb at 12:05 PM on February 4, 2013


edX: Or are those 25 exactly and totally what they currently offer?

edX is in its early phase. Last May, MIT and Harvard announced that they had formed the non-profit, starting with an initial funding of a combined $60 million.

Since last summer 10gen, Georgetown University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Texas and Wellesley have joined as partners.

Expect more partners and courses this year and beyond.
posted by ericb at 12:06 PM on February 4, 2013


And, just recently announced ...

Harvard & MIT Partner with the City of Boston to Offer Online Courses & Job Training to All Residents
When edX was first announced, former MIT President Susan Hockfield called the open-source technology platform a work in progress, but also an act of progress–an act the City of Boston highlighted Tuesday.

Harvard and MIT have announced a pilot project with the City of Boston, which will make online courses available through Internet-connected Boston neighborhood community centers, high schools and libraries for free. Called BostonX, the first-of-its-kind project will provide the city’s residents with access to courses, internships, job training and placement services, as well as locations for edX students to socialize.

“We must connect adults and youth in our neighborhoods with the opportunities of the knowledge economy,” said Mayor Tom Menino in a press release. “BostonX will help update our neighbors’ skills and our community centers.”
posted by ericb at 12:10 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Real Trouble With Online Higher Ed
The past few weeks have seen twists and turns in the ongoing debate about the quality and worth of online learning, and its role in the future of higher ed. On Jan. 17, Moody's Investor Service downgraded the value of higher education, predicting financial problems for universities and colleges. A few days earlier, schools in California announced that students can take Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for university credit. Last weekend, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman lauded MOOCs as the democratizing revolution we've been waiting for. The three major companies providing free online learning -- Coursera, Udacity and edX -- were jubilantly present at Davos. Online university enrollments are on the rise, according to a new industry report, even as overall college enrollments declined.

What are we to make of it all -- is the revolution here?
posted by ericb at 12:16 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Online Ed is great, and I'm doing a course now, but it has one big drawback for me: I can certainly get enough of a grasp on things to pass the evals, but what I can't really do is to ever ask a teacher about something specific I don't understand, so I end an online course the same way I end any sort of self-teaching from a book: more educated than I used to be about it, and maybe educated enough, but with odd little gaps.
posted by tyllwin at 12:27 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The main problem I see with massive online education is that there is a tangible benefit to buying into and attending a real class, and to having an instructor who is actually present and generally cares about their student success. Without financial pressure, grade pressure, and the pressure of looking bad in front of the class, it's going to be hard to motivate the vast majority of students. Sure, some people are self-motivated, but a lot of them were the sort of people who were able to learn things from books before. Learning is hard, takes effort, and isn't always fun, so most people benefit from having someone to ride their ass (as much as they hate it). Taking the class from your home, where you are free to split your attention and multi-task as much as you want, only makes it worse.

I look at it as the difference between hiring a personal trainer and buying a treadmill or something for your house. A few people can succeed with the treadmill, but most people would do measurably better with the personal trainer. And of course MOOCs just don't work at all for any kind of lab class, except possibly computer science.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:44 PM on February 4, 2013


Or that really successful play about staging a failure.

You mean...The Producers???
posted by Billiken at 12:47 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It looks like was shut down due to the course leader's inability to handle the demand (41,000 students for a single course? Most universities aren't big enough to handle 41,000 students for all offered courses).

As Infinite Jest pointed out above, this really shouldn't be the problem for a MOOC (as opposed to a traditional online course). At least in theory, they're designed to scale indefinitely.

And in my opinion, completion rates aren't a very good measure of success. That's applying a rubric that makes more sense in traditional education than in a MOOC. In a way, it's kind of like asking what the completion rate is for Metafilter.

The more interesting (albeit more difficult to measure) metric is how much comprehension a student acquires relative to the amount of time she invests. I think the next generation of MOOCs will be a lot more fluid, with "students" coming and going and spinning off into separate groups and regrouping on the fly. That is, they'll become less like a classroom and more like the internet.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:56 PM on February 4, 2013


This past weekend Dale J Stephens ran a three day workshop at CreativeLive - day 3 is right now being rebroadcast - in a short while a panel will be discussing the "Future of Education", including "hackademics", MOOCs and both on and offline learning.
posted by humph at 1:06 PM on February 4, 2013


That is, they'll become less like a classroom and more like the internet.

That's an interesting suggestion, but it leads me to wonder why the whole MOOC thing in the first place? If the end-state is basically "the Internet," which we already have, what exactly is the value-add of the MOOC part? Why not just hang out on a specialist forum dedicated to whatever you're interested in, then? That's something we have already and it seems like an awful lot of effort to reinvent that particular wheel, if we really think that's how it'll shake out.

And if the value add is in the certification and the testing, then really what you have are slightly less-sleazy versions of those for-profit universities that offer "degrees based on life experience", no?

what the completion rate is for Metafilter

100%, eventually.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:11 PM on February 4, 2013


"I think the next generation of MOOCs will be a lot more fluid, with "students" coming and going and spinning off into separate groups and regrouping on the fly. That is, they'll become less like a classroom and more like the internet."

That doesn't seem too likely if these MOOCs are still essentially traditional university courses with a set beginning and endpoint. But if they become something like very sophisticated versions of the Khan Academy, with a continuously existing infrastructure of recorded lectures and notes and forums, then maybe. There'd still be a framework to follow, where you had to register and take the lectures in order, but the way you spend your time would be up to you. Most assignments would be marked automatically, but there'd still be a human element - because instead of giving lectures, teachers could spend their time answering questions.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:17 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you'll forgive the self-link, Kadin and Kevin Street, check out this interview I did with Jonathan Worth. His classes are a sort of hybrid of traditional classes and MOOCs (he prefers the term "connected classroom"). To his thinking, the value of what he does over a traditional class is that it gives his students access to a wider community to share their work and ideas with. The role of the instructor in the equation isn't replaced; in fact, he's the one sort of guiding and maintaining those connections.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:30 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


If the end-state is basically "the Internet," which we already have, what exactly is the value-add of the MOOC part?

When I did the Coursera machine learning and PGM courses, it felt very different to just reading forums or Wikipedia. There was a huge improvement in the structuring of the material so that it could be worked through serially, like a good tutorial, but many times more ambitious.

Integrating exercises and assignments with a fixed schedule also helps to keep me motivated to finish all the content in a reasonable time.

It's perhaps not so different to Learn You a Haskell, but the topics covered on Coursera seem more in depth than most tutorials.
posted by pulposus at 1:45 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Imagining pre MOOC e-learning hate (1, 2) but with 40,000 students... O boy.
posted by yoHighness at 2:24 PM on February 4, 2013


> In a way, it's kind of like asking what the completion rate is for Metafilter.

Screwed that one up royally. Came in a little bit late and then missed drop/add.
posted by jfuller at 2:45 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


"What are we to make of it all -- is the revolution here?"

This isn't a revolution. It's a takeover by the best branded traditional post-secondary institutions to own a space that they have studiously avoided, for years - i.e. the growing online education space.

Lets project forward about 10 years, when MOOCs are delivering accreditation from within their frameworks, or letting student transfer their MOOC credentials to other institutions. In both cases it's going to be the branded institutions that win, for obvious reasons.

MOOCs are also a neat way for the fast-developing separation of socioeconomic class in America, accelerate. Ten years, hence, a degree fro Harvard with still come with all the special perks and strong first looks one gets from hiring employers. Graduates from MOOCs? In fairness, maybe the very, very best of the latter will get a long look, as one of the MOOCs has just struck a deal with 350 employers to sell the latter data that indicates who the top 10% MOOC achievers are.

Like everything else in this whack-a-mole culture, run by Plutocrats - the caveat is "follow the money'. Also, "follow the embedded networks". I'll bet that the vast majority of people who belong to the VC class that funds this kind of thing are either alumni or well connected to alumni of the schools that got in on the MOOC trend, early.

What I would like to see are some real assessments - assessments that change in almost real time, to determine what skills are necessary for job attainment in almost every category of employment. Then, find ways to let people use any means possible - aside from cheating - to learn whatever is necessary to achieve mastery of necessary skills. I don't care if the transmission of those skills come from a MOOC, or my grandfather.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:26 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm peripherally involved in the online education ecosystem and I'm a bit confused.

Is it that class about having successful classes failed? Or is there some bigger issue?

It seems very inside baseball and I seem to be missing the point trying to get made.
posted by Argyle at 3:32 PM on February 4, 2013


One of the things I think we're learning is that there is a real hunger for a sort of formal education from people who may be traditionally not-or-underserved by mainstream university higher education. And I would love to see a variety of models and modalities and methods for teaching all kinds of things to all kinds of people. Some of this is going to be in these giant, online-only, free ways and it's super interesting to watch it all play out. I think people are realizing that learning is life-long but that just picking up a book on your own doesn't always work for them or for certain kinds of materials, but they can't commit to going back to school in-person formally. For a lot longer than these things have been around I've taken classes non-traditionally (I've done correspondence courses by mail for my undergrad; did one of those "watch a video'd lecture on a public access channel and do your homework then come in to the community college for a final exam" things; done online synchronous and asynchronous classes) because it's a learning method that works for my learning style, my lifestyle and availability, and more crucially, for the kinds of things I'm interested in and need to learn.

If some of that disrupts the highered model where an 18 year old pays thousands of dollars to sit in a lecture hall with 1200 other 18-year olds to have a 21 year old TA teach Intro to Psych then maybe there's something even bigger in it too.
posted by marylynn at 4:24 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This was a really great read from The Awl: Venture Capital's Massive, Terrible Idea For The Future Of College
posted by armacy at 6:39 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are already so many for-profit entities like University of Phoenix scamming the federally backed student loan system with distance learning programs that our for-profit startups might miss out. Isn't like 80% of federal education funding being skimmed off by these scumbags? We could perhaps insert clawback clauses into the federally backed student loan programs so that if students cannot pay them back then the institution must repay it.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:10 PM on February 4, 2013


Like Infinite Jest, I am enrolled in E-Learning and Digital Cultures (edcmooc). This is my third MOOC ad I'm not exactly inexperienced at using the web or participating in online courses or discussions. I've taught courses delivered by a mix of in-class and online work (blended learning) and completed old-school online only courses. I did not "complete" the first two moocs, but I did learn something. They were worth the amount of time I was able to dedicate to them.

I swore I was going to complete this time, but I'm beginning to doubt it. Soem of the content is interesting, but the Coursera platform is just not up to the task.

No surprise at all that the Fundamentals of Online Education MOOC failed. Any teacher should know that a room full of teachers as students can be a tough crowd. A whole Intarweb full of teachers as students? What a nightmare. I feel for the instructors. There is almost no way they could have done it with the tools that Coursera provides.
posted by Gotanda at 7:18 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking of "E-Learning and Digital Cultures", I happen to be writing an epic-length nonfiction book on that very subject, centered around the history of people who created, built, used, and spent much of their lives on the PLATO computer system, from whence sprung computer-based education, computer-managed instruction, message boards, instant messaging, chat rooms, MUDs, DND games and other multiplayer games, first-person shooters, and hardware innovations including gas-plasma flat-panel displays and touch screens.

I've been following the MOOC craze closely and for along while a day would not go by without some new breathless rosy-future prognostication from a VC or some VC-funded MOOC startup exec going on about how great MOOCs are. The blurbs that didn't make me chuckle usually made me shudder. For decades I have been collecting articles from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s to track the hype regarding computer-based education, computer-assisted instruction, computer-based-instruction, e-learning, MOOCs, whatever you want to call it. It is remarkable how many instances---hundreds, thousands---there are of whole paragraphs, sometimes whole articles, that one can yank from say 1967 and pass off as from 2013 or vice versa. Nothing's changed.

I am pleased to see that in the past two months there's been a lot more published skepticism about MOOCs. It is much-needed.
posted by brianstorms at 7:33 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


"...The Aristocrats!"
posted by rhizome at 8:56 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


marylynn: If some of that disrupts the highered model where an 18 year old pays thousands of dollars to sit in a lecture hall with 1200 other 18-year olds to have a 21 year old TA teach Intro to Psych then maybe there's something even bigger in it too.

Nobody likes to talk about it, but the lower-level lecture-hall classes finance the higher level ones. It's why you can afford to have your tenured professors teach lots of 300-600 level courses that might have less than ten people in them.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:08 PM on February 4, 2013


MOOCs are also a neat way for the fast-developing separation of socioeconomic class in America, accelerate. Ten years, hence, a degree fro Harvard with still come with all the special perks and strong first looks one gets from hiring employers. Graduates from MOOCs? In fairness, maybe the very, very best of the latter will get a long look, as one of the MOOCs has just struck a deal with 350 employers to sell the latter data that indicates who the top 10% MOOC achievers are.

I can tell you in that IT companies are already taking certifications of completions in these kinds of courses seriously. I'm taking one right now -- mandatory from my employer.
posted by empath at 9:24 PM on February 4, 2013


I've been following the MOOC craze closely and for along while a day would not go by without some new breathless rosy-future prognostication from a VC or some VC-funded MOOC startup exec going on about how great MOOCs are. The blurbs that didn't make me chuckle usually made me shudder. For decades I have been collecting articles from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s to track the hype regarding computer-based education, computer-assisted instruction, computer-based-instruction, e-learning, MOOCs, whatever you want to call it. It is remarkable how many instances---hundreds, thousands---there are of whole paragraphs, sometimes whole articles, that one can yank from say 1967 and pass off as from 2013 or vice versa. Nothing's changed.


Find/replace 'mooc' with 'mobile', 'web', 'social', etc... It's only hype until it's not.
posted by empath at 9:30 PM on February 4, 2013


Distance learning in Australia never had the stigma it seems to have had elsewhere - with such vast distances to cover online learning has always been popular. I did two of my degrees that way (the first still with all the materials coming in the mail). So it's interesting, having previously paid a lot of money for online degrees to come into MOOCs (I start the edX course on Poverty next week).

Previously I was motivated to complete my university courses because I was paying for them and needed the credit. I would race through and do 6 weeks of material at a time in a weekend because the design of the courses barely required any interaction on a weekly basis.

More recently, I tried the HCI Coursera and bailed after the first week because I didn't like the idea of peer assessment. I have been a marker on university courses, it's not a fun task.

What I am looking forward to about the edX course is that it is being taught by two incredible professors - whether they have just done prerecorded videos or if they will interact on the forums I don't know, but that is a drawcard for me and the only thing that really differentiates new MOOCs from what has been going on for the past couple of decades.
posted by wingless_angel at 1:17 AM on February 5, 2013


> bailed after the first week because I didn't like the idea of peer assessment.

Peer assessment is my main, really only, problem with MOOCs. Even if they are ostensibly run by Harvard/Stanford/MIT with course content signed off by Big Name Professors, your thousands of fellow students are not going to be mostly Harvard/Stanford/MIT upperclassmen or even, for intro classes, mostly the valedictorians of high schools with a history of placing their top graduates at Harvard/Stanford/MIT. Even if you make a valiant effort to follow the class discussion--if grouped, participating in your group where you can post and snooping read-only in several others--the comments you will wade through will be a Duke's Mixture of 1) metafilter-or-better, 2) Slate-Salon-Atlantic, 3) Reddit, 4) YooToob, 5) 4chan-somethingawful, 6) stormfront. How much of each? Skewed bellcurve, with the long fat tail on the dimwit end. Your "peers", who are going to "assess" you. Not my peers, annabelle.

Distance ed is red meat for me, or should be. Some years ago I decided I wanted to be an MCSE. I purchased the texts for the then-current required exams from MS. I read many, many post-exam braindumps (of variable merit.) I downloaded the time-limited eval version of Server 2003 from MS and set my home network up as a domain, and then re-read the texts and the braindumps with a small but live domain in front of me to twiddle and frob. Then went to a testing center, took the exams, and passed them all first try. But there was no nonsense about "peer assessment" anywhere in the process. Assessmant by MS, MCSE cert by MS.

MOOCs would interest me more than they do if there was written coursework and an essay-style final exam, all graded by actual Harvard/Stanford/MIT TAs, and a major (30 pages up, book-length acceptable) required course paper blue-penciled by the Big Name Prof. himself. This will never happen, not for class sizes in the thousands. It's possible that the online-ed field may settle out into courses where everyone who completes one gets a gold star and a head pat, courses "for credit" featuring peer assesment, and courses for REAL credit with assessment done by the real TAs and the real Big Name Prof. But the latter, I predict without the least chance of being mistaken, will not be cheap--let alone free.
posted by jfuller at 10:43 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


...you will wade through will be a Duke's Mixture of 1) metafilter-or-better ...

I have never heard the term 'Duke's Mixture' [definition].

That's why I love this place. I learn so much here --- each and every day.

We should start a few MeFi MOOCs ourselves!
posted by ericb at 11:47 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a new FPP about a for-profit MOOC: The Floating University.
posted by ericb at 1:59 PM on February 5, 2013


Slate has more on the MOOC MOOC fiasco

One of the best accounts comes from Jill Barshay of the Hechinger Report, who was among the unlucky pupils:

Within hours, things were going awry. Neither the “Getting Started” tab nor the “syllabus” tab offered much direction on how to begin the class. I wasted an hour taking surveys on my personal learning style. (One said I was a visual learner. The other said I wasn’t).
The biggest problem was breaking our class of more than 41,000 students into discussion groups. Dr. Wirth asked us to sign up using a Google spreadsheet. The only problem was Google’s own support pages clearly state that only 50 people can edit and view a document simultaneously. I was one of the thousands who kept clicking, but was locked out. When I finally got in, it was a mess. Classmates had erased names, substituted their own and added oodles of blank spaces. ...
In the meantime, the video lectures were mind-numbing laundry lists of PowerPoint bullet points. A survey of educational philosophies left me no more enlightened than before I watched it. The readings were a bit better. One of my favorites, Teaching with Technology: Tools and Strategies to Improve Student Learning, linked to a hilarious PowerPoint comedy sketch about the stupidity of reading PowerPoint bullet points. ...

posted by Bwithh at 5:15 PM on February 5, 2013


Re. "Duke's Mixture", definitions I see online are somewhat different from the way I have always used the phrase--that being a mashup of things that are related, but of all different levels of quality. The best instance I can give is what a professional tea taster is supposed to have said about a tea blend: "I taste a rather good Assam, a run-of-the-mill Darjeeling, a mediocre Ceylon and of course, the tea bag."
posted by jfuller at 8:27 AM on February 6, 2013


all graded by actual Harvard/Stanford/MIT TAs

The last thing our academic systems need is more bullshit filler work for grad students.
posted by maryr at 4:06 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


all graded by actual Harvard/Stanford/MIT TAs

The last thing our academic systems need is more bullshit filler work for grad students.
posted by maryr at 4:06 PM on 2/6
[1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]



Amen to that
posted by Bwithh at 11:33 AM on February 7, 2013


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