To say, as the Chronicle diplomatically does, that MOOC courses "poses challenges to traditional education models" is putting it mildly. I clicked through to the courses linked in the article and comments and learned this:
- MOOC courses are offered to up to 10,000 students at a time.
- You can learn something, or not, and participate, or not, and do the readings, or not. (Okay, so this the way some students approach a traditional course.)
- You don't get credit for the course, as far as I can tell. I've looked extensively at the materials for several sites and couldn't find a mention of it. I don't think it costs anything to take a MOOC course, but again, I couldn't find out from the sites.
- The content for these courses seems to be people talking about social media or education through social media, so in a way, the course is more or less a performance of the subject matter.
- People who are experts in the content area come in and curate parts or lead discussions of their content area, so you have social media people talking to people who are accessing the course using social media. Students end up practicing what they are talking about.
- I can't judge the subject matter, since I never took an education course, but it is a very different content base from what we're dealing with in literature, history, psychology, or traditional disciplines in the sciences. The Mother of all MOOCs has modules on "collective learning," "connecting our learning," "learning in times of abundance," "triangulating our learning," and so on.
- I learn a lot from the experts when I go on a site like fountainpennetwork.com every so often. I don't get credit for going there, but there are many people contributing to a knowledge base. Do discussion forums on specific topics count as a MOOC, or does the subject matter have to be education?
- How would this work for a subject in which there is specific, rigorous content on which students need to be evaluated?
- How would students respond if you tell them, "Hey, kids, here's a swell course for you to take. You'll learn as much as you want to learn and spend a lot of time doing it, but you won't get any college credit for it"?
- According to trusty Wikipedia, the principles of MOOC are to (1) gather information; (2) remix content; (3) repurpose the content; and (4) feed it forward. This is presented as revolutionary, but how is this different from what we have students do in class every single day?
- I'm reminded of the "reinventing the educratic wheel" post at Historiann's where some university thinks it has invented something new in promoting class discussion and group work instead of the dusty old lectures that it thinks rule college courses and that, like the "Paul is dead" legend, get dragged out every month or so as a dead horse to beat.
- See also "The University of Wherever" at the NYTimes, linked from More or Less Bunk.
On the other hand, for learning about how social media works in education, maybe yes and maybe no. Maybe the learning and application is in itself the important part and the credentials aren't needed, although if that's so, why are experts named for each module?