Thursday, October 4, 2012

Will MOOCs radically change higher education?

A MOOC is a "massive open online course." Top notch schools like Harvard, MIT and Stanford are now making some courses available on a MOOC platform.  Will this democratize learning for the masses, or is this just going to be like correspondence courses 100 years ago?  Nicholas Carr discusses their likely impact in an MIT Technology Review article called "The Crisis in Higher Education." 

Much of the excitement centers on the potential for student engagement:
So what makes MOOCs different? As Thrun sees it, the secret lies in "student engagement." Up to now, most Internet classes have consisted largely of videotaped lectures, a format that Thrun sees as deeply flawed. Classroom lectures are in general "boring," he says, and taped lectures are even less engaging: "You get the worst part without getting the best part." While MOOCs include videos of professors explaining concepts and scribbling on whiteboards, the talks are typically broken up into brief segments, punctuated by on-screen exercises and quizzes. Peppering students with questions keeps them involved with the lesson, Thrun argues, while providing the kind of reinforcement that has been shown to strengthen comprehension and retention.
Artificial intelligence is being used to tailor the experience of each student to his or her own learning style.  Obviously this is in the early stages; will this be a breakthrough or just more hype?  Carr interviews an English and a history professor, both of whom turn out to be skeptics.  Some schools are using MOOCs as an alternative to face-to-face; others are using it instead of face-to-face for certain classes. 

For the meantime, I do not foresee amping the size of our online MBA program from 30-35 per class to 100,000. 

No comments:

Post a Comment