Remedial MOOCs?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is sponsoring 10 grants (up to $50K) for institutions developing MOOC-style courses for “high demand, general education” courses, sourcespeak for assistive remedial work.  Inside Higher Ed digs into the article in their call for proposals.

The foundation notes they do not expect these courses to stand alone; rather, they should supplement existing institutional courses that provide faculty access research has shown is necessary in remedial education.  The grants will provide the Foundation an opportunity to research the effect of MOOCs on remedial education, giving nearly a dozen case studies and perhaps hundreds of thousands of subjects to garner data from.

Is this an example of an AI-MOOC, whose pedagogy builds from industrial and self-paced learning (which would bode ominous for the success of at-risk groups), a cMOOC, which relies heavily on peer-to-peer interaction (but lacks the structure commonly found in remedial education), or does it become an example of blended format, mixing MOOC-based online learning with traditional face to face time?  If it is the third choice, is the MOOC a supplemental tool for a teacher, or does it follow the flipped classroom model, turning the face-to-face time into tutoring time (and rendering the necessity of a pedagogically-trained professional obsolete)?

Outside of those debates, a very interesting quote from Paul LeBlanc, the President of Southern New Hampshire University, a school which the article states is growing its online education program at a rapid pace:

“The innovations so far exhibited with MOOCs are all about opening up elite brands to the masses and education for free,” he said via e-mail. “Neither of those innovations, which so captivates the press and others, actually addresses the real tough teaching and learning challenges at the heart of remedial education.”

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