Information Age Education Blog

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9 minutes reading time (1731 words)

Supersized Online Courses (MOOCs)

We are at the beginning of a major change in education that is being made possible by progress in online education. (Moursund, 1/28/2012, 1/1/2012, 8/2/2011, 7/12/2011, and 4/29/2011).

The underlying change agent is that educators have a steadily growing research-based collection of knowledge about teaching and learning, and they also have computer hardware and software of steadily growing power. Combining the two has produced some excellent computer-based educational programs that have these characteristics:

  1. In various educational situations, they are more effective than traditional teaching methodologies.
  2. They are expensive to develop, but can then be used by a very large number of students so that the overall cost per student is lower than traditional classroom instruction.
  3. They work well in a hybrid model of education in which a student is taught by a combination of online coursework and traditional classroom coursework.

A recent article by Marc Parry (2/26/2012) describes work being done by the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University. The project is headed by Candace Thille. Quoting from the Parry article:

"We're seeing failure rates in these large introductory courses that are not acceptable to anybody," Ms. Thille says. "There has to be a better way to get more students—irrespective of where they start—to be able to successfully complete."

Her approach brings together faculty subject experts, learning researchers, and software engineers to build open online courses grounded in the science of how people learn. The resulting systems provide immediate feedback to students and tailor content to their skills. As students work through online modules outside class, the software builds profiles on them, just as Netflix does for customers. Faculty consult that data to figure out how to spend in-person class time.

I find the first sentence of the quote particularly interesting. Colleges and universities that hold to high academic standards in some introductory courses end up failing a high percentage of their students. Continuing to quote from the Parry article:

On a recent Tuesday morning, The Chronicle tagged along as that mission brought Ms. Thille to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was meeting with folks from the university and two nearby community colleges to prepare for the development of a new precalculus course.

The failure rate in such precalculus courses can be so bad that as many as 50 percent of students need to take the class a second time. Ms. Thille and her colleagues hope to improve on that record while developing materials of such quality that they're used by perhaps 100,000 students each year.

The Gates Foundation is investing some of its funds in the development of high quality online courses. Quoting from (Young, 6/19/2012):

Among the awards is the foundation’s first contribution to so-called MOOC’s, or Massive Open Online Courses, where professors let anyone online take their courses, sometimes attracting tens of thousands of learners. Specifically, the Gates Foundation is giving $1-million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for its MITx project, which offers such open courses. The grant is focused on an effort to help colleges serving low-income students teach an official course based around MITx materials, using an approach called the “flipped classroom.” Students at the partner colleges will watch the MITx video lectures for a computer-science course, and use traditional classroom time at their own institution for additional exercises and to get help when they’re stuck.

MOOCs are making their way into precollege education. For a 10/16/2013 summary of progress in this area, see http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2013/10/mooc_ventures_into_k-12_territ.html. Quoting from this article:

But MOOCs are gradually showing up on the K-12 landscape. Michigan Virtual University and Kent State University recently launched a MOOC aimed at high school students interested in becoming teachers, higher education students currently studying to be teachers, and educators themselves.

What You Can Do

All current and future teachers face the "game-changing" challenge of Web-based courses being delivered to huge audiences. A high-quality Web-based course is typically develop[ed by a team including content specialists, very good teachers, instructional designers, and graphic artists. A large amount of time and money goes into designing and producing the course. The courses can be made available in an "any time, any place" mode. After a course is developed and delivered, it can be modified and upgraded.

I have three recommendations:

  1. Learn how to make use of such courses and segments of such courses in your own ongoing professional development.
  2. Learn how to make use of such courses and segments of such courses in your teaching.
  3. Learn how to help your students learn to make effective use of such courses—both in a "learn on your own" environment and in a "learn in a hybrid mode of computer and human teacher" mode.

Comment Added 1/5/2014

There is growing awareness that MOOCs have been overly hyped. The MOOC movement is now retrenching, reconsidering, revising, and focusing on solving some of the obvious failures that have been observed. Read and/or listen to a summary of this situation at http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=258420151&m=258711837.

Comment Added 2/7/2015

Here is a recent article about possible futures of MOOCS.

Kolowich, S. (2/5/20115). The MOOC Hype Fades, in 3 Charts. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 2/7/2015 from http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/the-mooc-fades-in-3-charts/55701.

Quoting from the article:

Few people would now be willing to argue that massive open online courses are the future of higher education. The percentage of institutions offering a MOOC seems to be leveling off, at around 14 percent, while suspicions persist that MOOCs will not generate money or reduce costs for universities-and are not, in fact, sustainable.

The latest figures come from the Babson Survey Research Group's annual survey, which was based on a 2014 survey of more than 2,800 academic leaders and was released on Thursday. The survey, which has tracked opinions about online education for more than a decade, started asking academic leaders about MOOCs in 2012, when free online courses seemed poised to disrupt the walled gardens of elite college instruction.

Back then, 28 percent of respondents believed MOOCs were sustainable, while 26 percent thought they were not. In this year's survey, 16 percent believe MOOCs are sustainable, while 51 percent think they are not.

Comment Added 6/7/2015

The issue of providing college credit for MOOCs is gradually being addressed. For a summary of the current situaton, see http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2015/05/27/chance-for-credit-gives-new-life-to-moocs.

 

Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications

You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.

Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.

Here are some examples of publications that might interest you:

A game changer in higher education. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/a-game-changer-in-higher-education.html.

Barrientos, T. (6/7/2012). Penn reaches thousands online with Coursera. Retrieved 6/28/2012 from http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/current/2012-06-07/features/penn-reaches-thousands-online-coursera.

Coughlan, Sean (9/18/2013). UK enters global online university race. BBD News. Retrieved 9/18/2013 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24109190.

Quoting from the article:

The launch of FutureLearn sees 21 UK universities, plus Trinity College Dublin and Monash University in Australia, offering courses that are taught and assessed on the internet.

The UK universities include Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Nottingham, Warwick, Bristol, Reading, Southampton and the Open University, which has headed the project.

The British Library, British Museum and British Council will make material available to students.

EdX goes open source to woo MOCC developers. See  https://www.informationweek.com/education/online-learning/edx-goes-open-source-to-woo-mooc-develop/240156159.

Guerriero, M. (4/22/2014). Are College Campuses Obsolete? The New Yorker. Retrieved 4/24/2014 from http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/04/are-college-campuses-obsolete.html.

HarvardX marks the spot. See http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/10/harvardx-marks-the-spot/.

Hidary, J. (7/6/2012). The revolution: Top ten disruptors of education. Retrieved 7/9/2012 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jack-hidary/online-distance-learning_b_1493319.html.

Jaschik, S. (5/2/2013). MOOC skeptics at the top. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved 5/20/2013 from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/05/02/survey-finds-presidents-are-skeptical-moocs.

Job market embraces massive online courses. See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324807704579087840126695698.html.

Kolowich, Steve (2/21/2013). Competing MOOC providers expand into new territory—and each other's. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 2/24/2013 from http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/competing-mooc-providers-expand-into-new-territory-and-each-others/42463.

Also see the following 3/18/2013  article by the same author: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Professors-Behind-the-MOOC/137905/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en#id=overview. 

Also see the 4/30/2013 article by the same author: http://chronicle.com/article/Duke-Us-Undergraduate/138895/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.

Lederman, Doug (2/25/2013). Who benefits from online ed? Inside Education. Retrieved 2/26/2013 from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/02/25/study-finds-some-groups-fare-worse-others-online-courses.

Metz, Rachael. Sebastian Thrun on the future of learning. See http://www.technologyreview.com/news/517181/sebastian-thrun-on-the-future-of-learning/. This article suggests that recent improvements in MOOCS may lead to completion rates of about 85%.

Number of students taking online courses jumps 96 percent in 5 years. Seehttp://campustechnology.com/articles/2013/06/24/report-students-taking-online-courses-jumps-96-percent-over-5-years.aspx?=CT21.

Open courseware is changing the world of education. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/open-courseware-is-changing-the-world-of-education.html.

Personalizing educational content and delivery. See  http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/personalizing-educational-content-and-delivery.html.

Plethora of data helps Lytics Lab to analyze MOOCs. See https://ed.stanford.edu/news/plethora-data-helps-lytics-lab-analyze-moocs.

Requiring online education in Virginia. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/requiring-online-education-in-virginia.html.

Scholars sound the alert from the 'Dark Side' of tech innovation. See http://chronicle.com/article/Scholars-Sound-the-Alert-From/139103/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.

Staff Writers (n.d.). 50 Best Sources of Free STEM Education Online. OnlineUnversities.com. Retrieved 4/14/2012 from http://www.onlineuniversities....on-online/.

Stanford announces 16 online courses for fall [2012] quarter. See http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/september/online-courses-fall-090712.html. For more recent Stanford news, see http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog.html.

Straumsheim (12/6/2013). Confirming the MOCC Myth. InsideHigher Education. Retrieved 12/10/2013 from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/12/06/mooc-research-conference-confirms-commonly-held-beliefs-about-medium. Quoting from the article:

The research presented on Thursday was perhaps best summarized by research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, which analyzed the study habits of 1 million students across 16 Coursera courses between June of 2012 and 2013.
“Emerging data ... show that massive open online courses (MOOCs) have relatively few active users, that user ‘engagement’ falls off dramatically especially after the first 1-2 weeks of a course, and that few users persist to the course end,” a summary of the study reads.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/12/06/mooc-research-conference-confirms-commonly-held-beliefs-about-medium#ixzz2n835pAAG
Inside Higher Ed

Straumsheim, C. (9/3/2013). Masculine open online courses. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 9/6/2013 from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/09/03/more-female-professors-experiment-moocs-men-still-dominate.

Survey finds only limited public awareness of MOOCs. See http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/survey-finds-only-limited-public-awareness-of-moocs/44549.

To be a successful (online) learner. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/to-be-a-successful-online-learner.html.

References

Moursund, D. (4/29/2011). A major turning point in education. Retrieved 2/27/2012 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/a-major-turning-point-in-education.html.

Moursund, D. (7/13/2011). Open Courseware is changing the world of education. Retrieved 2/27/2012 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/open-courseware-is-changing-the-world-of-education.html.

Moursund, D. (8/2/2011). Stanford University is offering a free Artificial Intelligence course. Retrieved 2/27/2012 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/stanford-university-is-offering-a-free-artificial-intelligence-course.html.

Moursund, D. (1/1/2012). Retention of knowledge and skills from education and training. Retrieved 2/27/2012 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/retention-knowledge-and-skills-from-education-and-training.html.

Moursund, D. (1/28/2012). A game changer in higher education. Retrieved 2/27 2012 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/a-game-changer-in-higher-education.html.

Parry, M. (2/26/2012). Treating higher ed's 'Cost Disease' with supersize online courses. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 6/28/2012 from http://chronicle.com/article/Treating-Higher-Eds-Cost/130934/?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en.

Young, J.R. (6/11/2012). Four professors discuss teaching free online courses for thousands of students. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 6/13/2012 from http://chronicle.com/article/4-Professors-Discuss-Teaching/132125/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.

Young, J.R. (6/19/2012). Gates foundation gives $9 million in grants to support 'breakthrough' education models. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 6/28/2012 from http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/gates-foundation-gives-9-million-in-grants-to-support-breakthrough-business-models/37037?cid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en.

 

 

 

 

Comparing U.S. and Chinese Educational Systems
Some Grand Global Challenges
 

Comments

David Moursund (website) on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 00:35
MIT's first MITx course (Circuits andElectronics)

Written by davem, March 05, 2012.

Here is some information from an announcement dated 3/5/2011:

MITx, a new online-learning initiative launched by MIT and announced in December, begins in earnest today with its first course: 6.002x (Circuits and Electronics). More than 90,000 people have signed up for the experimental prototype course since registration opened in February, and today, those students can begin their study.

Written by davem, March 05, 2012. Here is some information from an announcement dated 3/5/2011: [quote]MITx, a new online-learning initiative launched by MIT and announced in December, begins in earnest today with its first course: 6.002x (Circuits and Electronics). More than 90,000 people have signed up for the experimental prototype course since registration opened in February, and today, those students can begin their study.[/quote]
David Moursund (website) on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 00:36
Sources of free online STEM courses

Written by davem, April 14, 2012.

The following reference was submitted by Linda Ross.
Staff Writers (n.d.). 50 Best Sources of Free STEM Education Online. OnlineUnversities.com. Retrieved 4/14/2012 from http://www.onlineuniversities....on-online/.

Quoting from the article:

Colleges, online universities, and other educational forums in your community can be excellent places to learn more about a variety of STEM topics, but there is also a wealth of educational material available on the web for those who prefer to learn at their own pace or take a more individual approach. Even better, these resources, whether classes, lectures, or tutorials, are all free of charge, meaning you can improve your knowledge without emptying your wallet. Check out our list (organized by topic, not ranking) for some great STEM resources that can help you build your knowledge about everything from calculus to zoology.

Written by davem, April 14, 2012. The following reference was submitted by Linda Ross. Staff Writers (n.d.). 50 Best Sources of Free STEM Education Online. OnlineUnversities.com. Retrieved 4/14/2012 from http://www.onlineuniversities....on-online/. Quoting from the article: [quote]Colleges, online universities, and other educational forums in your community can be excellent places to learn more about a variety of STEM topics, but there is also a wealth of educational material available on the web for those who prefer to learn at their own pace or take a more individual approach. Even better, these resources, whether classes, lectures, or tutorials, are all free of charge, meaning you can improve your knowledge without emptying your wallet. Check out our list (organized by topic, not ranking) for some great STEM resources that can help you build your knowledge about everything from calculus to zoology.[/quote]
David Moursund (website) on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 00:37
A new on-line education venture

Written by davem, April 18, 2012.

Markoff, John (4/18/2012). Online education venture lures cash infusion and deals with 5 top universities. The New York Times. Retrieved 4/18/2012 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04...d=fb-share. Quoting from the article:


An interactive online learning system created by two Stanford computer scientists plans to announce Wednesday that it has secured $16 million in venture capital and partnerships with five major universities.

The scientists, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, taught free Web-based courses through Stanford last year that reached more than 100,000 students. Now they have formed a company, Coursera, as a Web portal to distribute a broad array of interactive courses in the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences and engineering.

Besides Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, where the venture has already been offering courses, the university partners include the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton.

Although computer-assisted learning was pioneered at Stanford during the 1960s, and for-profit online schools like the University of Phoenix have been around for several decades, a new wave of interest in online education is taking shape.

Written by davem, April 18, 2012. Markoff, John (4/18/2012). Online education venture lures cash infusion and deals with 5 top universities. The New York Times. Retrieved 4/18/2012 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04...d=fb-share. Quoting from the article: [quote] An interactive online learning system created by two Stanford computer scientists plans to announce Wednesday that it has secured $16 million in venture capital and partnerships with five major universities. The scientists, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, taught free Web-based courses through Stanford last year that reached more than 100,000 students. Now they have formed a company, Coursera, as a Web portal to distribute a broad array of interactive courses in the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences and engineering. Besides Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, where the venture has already been offering courses, the university partners include the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton. Although computer-assisted learning was pioneered at Stanford during the 1960s, and for-profit online schools like the University of Phoenix have been around for several decades, a new wave of interest in online education is taking shape.[/quote]
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