The Summer of MOOCs – Podcast at DigitalCampus

Ed researchers Bryan Alexander and Audrey Watters were guests on the Digital Campus podcast Episode #90 (hosted by George Mason University), discussing MOOCs in practice (start listening at 6:00).  Of note to me:

  • Alexander and Watters disagree on the writing component of a MOOC offered via Coursera which, oddly enough, was of a course Alexander took as an undergrad and TAed as a graduate student.  The assignments (270 word essays) seemed short to Watters, but Alexander felt brevity was very helpful for weekly assignments.  That being said, Watters said there was no support system for students who felt overwhelmed by the volume of writing, and anonymous peer review ranged from poor to callous.
  • Mills Kelly asks MOOCs to show the learning, mentioning that the development of these courses has, at least in the discussion, focused on access and efficiency rather than learning.  He does mention that cognitive theory does not look highly on a lecture/quiz learning model (that seems to be the M.O. of EdX-like MOOCs), and offers an idea that instruction is poor at the university level in general, but I would have liked to hear him offer his definition of learning. He asked for data a year out, but there was not a tangible definition on what evidence of learning would look like.
  • Discussion of Pearson’s connection with EdX, and how that links to assessment rather than to learning (assessment fitting into a behaviorist model of learning).
  • Dan Cohen asks the question of whether then goal of MOOCs as access points/public good is disingenuous.  Cohen points to Marginal Revolution University as a place selling to motivated students from across the world.  Cohen points out that motivated, smart students tend to do well because they find access, but less motivated/academically adept students (and Cohen states that this is a growing population) would not be served.
  • Bryan Alexander mentions the potential for MOOCs to provide numerous viewpoints on a subject from around the world, focusing on a Macroeconomics MOOC from University of Mary Washington
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