Sunday, November 04, 2012

WaPo: Things to learn from MOOC pedagogy

Today's MOOC cheerleader is The Washington Post, which crows that the MOOC offers "Elite Education for the Masses!"  The ! is mine, but it might as well be WaPo's, given the tenor of the article.

Some things I learned:
  • Lectures are bad, according to educrat pedagogy of the last decade, and classrooms must be flipped to eliminate them . . . unless the course is a MOOC.  Then lectures are good because they are delivered by "world-class faculty" at "elite institutions."
  • Multiple-choice quizzes are bad, according to educrat pedagogy . . . unless they are inserted into the lecture in a MOOC. Then they are good because they "promote student engagement" and "enhance learning." 
  • A MOOC helps to build the brand, a key purpose of education since its beginnings.
  •  Dropping the name of a MOOC sponsored by an Ivy is okay because attending a MOOC is just like attending an Ivy. Jonathan Rees has a post about Ivy schools (A shares) and Ivy MOOCs (B shares) that seems a little closer to what will happen, but WaPo didn't interview him. 
  • And some people really do find teaching and participating in MOOCs worthwhile.  I'm not being sarcastic about that, and it is inspiring to think that people feel that way, even if they show no interest in the long-term effects of MOOCification. 
This part struck me as sort of sad:
“The real question is, if you start to get very good online MOOCs, why do you need a university?” said Joseph A. Burns, dean of faculty at Cornell University. “And what does an Ivy League university bring to the table? What do you give to students that they can’t get sitting at home and eating potato chips?” The campus ideal, he said, “of a teacher and five students crowded around their feet on a sunny lawn or something like that — that’s gone."
Really? Gone for good, even at Cornell? You're the dean of faculty and you can't articulate what value added Cornell the institution brings to the table as long as its lectures are recorded and put online for free? I can tell you one thing: once there's no more faculty, there won't be a need for a dean of what's not there.

I'd also argue that the "students sitting outside" for class, which I see plenty of at Northern Clime when the weather is nice, isn't something that we ought to give up so easily. Granted, it's not shiny, like an online discussion board or auto-graded quiz in a MOOC, but it signals a different kind of student engagement, one that has a track record of encouraging real learning.


Z said...

The masses do not bring elite style skills to an elite education so this whole thing is a contradiction in terms. *I* could get something out of a MOOC, if I were in Antarctica or something and couldn't get to a RL school.

undine said...

Good point, Z. Are the students important in a MOOC? Or does the process of winnowing down from 100,000 to 2,000 students just another version of Ivy admissions?