Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lessons from a MOOC @ Chicago Booth

John Cochrane, a finance professor at Chicago-Booth runs a blog he calls The Grumpy Economist, which is well worth a look once or twice a week.  Cochrane taught a MOOC last fall on "Asset Pricing" at the PhD level.  The course lasted nine weeks; students were expected to work 10-15 hours each week.  Reflecting on his experience in this post called "Mooconomics," Cochrane makes these points

  • Fixed costs are very, very high
  • The Coursera software for assessments is limited to multiple choice and numerical answers
  • Faculty need help with instructional design, video and IT to make the transition
  • The "flipped classroom" worked very well with his on campus students who studied the videos before class 
  • Look out faculty!  Money quote: 

But a warning to faculty: Teaching the flipped classroom is a lot harder! The old model, we pretend to teach, you pretend to learn, filling the board with equations or droning on for an hour and a half, is really easy compared to guiding a good discussion or working on some problems together.
With high fixed costs and zero revenue, Cochrane asks how can universities monetize their MOOC investments.  One possibility is that MOOCs replace textbooks and schools charge other schools to use their materials.  Another is that universities will use MOOCs to build brand awareness and closer relationships with alumni.  The fixed costs will be high, but then again football teams, libraries and labs aren't cheap either.

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