Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Just the Same -- MOOC?

I was thinking, and since MOOCs have been in the air a lot, thinking about MOOCs.  And some of the underlying assumptions and such.

If a MOOC course from Ivy U is appropriate to anyone who logs on, and anyone who logs on and completes should, in theory, have learned everything that the Ivy U student learns in the same Ivy U course, isn't there a sort of underlying equalization of the students as learners?  What I mean is, doesn't that basically say that students at X community college, Y regional university, and Z random community member are all basically the same, since they're all taking basically the same course and supposedly should all get the credit?

Doesn't that undermine the special elite status of Ivy U students somewhat?

If Intro 101 is the same, and Medium 250 is the same for any warm body who takes the course, doesn't that pretty much say that the warm bodies taking the course are basically not that much different?


  1. LOL. I think you've just undermined the elite university.

    My word verification is "add buypomp." Yep!

  2. But there are some real differences between the preparation levels, learning styles and simple but oh-so-unfashionable ability to learn between different students (which partly but not by any means entirely map onto the kind of institution they might attend). I've been called an elitist and worse things for suggesting that some people are not capable of and will not benefit from university level study, but I do believe it more with every year I teach. And I mostly teach 'traditional students', within a certain intake range of qualifying scores.

    The problem with 'one size fits all' is that it's true only for a certain definition of fits. Assuming that everyone taking the MOOC has the vocabulary, ability to listen, read, write and assimilate information from written and spoken forms and to communicate effectively with others in a discussion (which frankly are already skills I'm often needing to teach), even then, some will be challenged by the material and some will sail through it. What the MOOC model is - and always will be - missing is challenge for the top end of the cohort and skilled support for the bottom end (unless you have lots of volunteer tutors who can teach skills as well as material) - and I would argue that that is something that you only get in a class-type setting, whether it's a moderately large online module with tutors (I've done ones taken by a few thousand students... but each group has someone to feed back on work etc.) or in a classroom with 10-100 students. But maybe this 'one size fits none but covers most' model is true of the US-style uni experience, more than the UK one? I don't know enough about the sector...

  3. I came to say something similar to what JaneB wrote. The content being delivered in a MOOC might be the same, but the "value added" through interaction with the instructors and other students, structured assignments with feedback, etc., won't be the same.

  4. I think that was Bardiac's point!

  5. Anonymous11:11 PM

    Ah, but the students at elite U (say, Harvard) are not completing the same work as students at community college x who enroll in the MOOC. Students in the MOOC have pop-up quizzes, do not write papers, and are assessed at a VERY different standard (usually not for a grade) than the students sitting in a Harvard lecture hall. The students in the lecture hall at Harvard complete different work than the students in the online environment. This, by the way, is one reason why a Harvard student would not be allowed to enroll in a Harvard MOOC and get credit at Harvard.