Monday, 20 January 2014

5 myths about MOOCs - The Times

Wow - the effortlessly scathing attacks on MOOC models continue, this time from Diana Laurilliard in timeshighereducation...

Mooc students spend the majority of their study time watching videos and reading. To aid understanding they join discussion groups with other students, and they take computer-marked tests that direct them back to material they have not understood. For feedback they exchange assignments with a partner and peer grade them against a set of criteria.

Not all MOOCs work in such an inflexible, behaviourist model. Sure, many MOOCs are overloaded with incessant (and very boring) lecture material (much of it delivered through internet video). These MOOCs are just badly designed and yes, many of them ARE American... The reality is that there's a lot of very very unprogressive learning and teaching being offered in the world, and now, unfortunately, some of this unprogressive lecturing is becoming globalised, migrating to the internet through the power of MOOC technology. Transferring bad lecturing to the web is not progressive education, it's just bad lecturing on the internet.

The so-called 'myth' of OER Open Educational Resources is also attacked in the article...

But the idea that “content is free” in education is one of several myths that have helped to inflate the bubble of hype. Yes, there is a mass of free material on the web. But for educational purposes, web content has to be curated by someone who knows how it relates to an intended learning outcome, and their work does not come free.

Absolutely! I agree! OER's do need to be carefully selected and it really helps when students are 'guided' through their learning project, with constant focus on Learning Outcomes. There's a cost (time, money, expertise) in terms of generating or creating the OERs as well. But there are other models for funding expert pedagogical curation and direction of direction. The potential of the MOOC model is that, used correctly, an expert lecturer can effectively reach, teach and guide a large cohort of interested learners.

Students can support themselves and each other through their learning journeys. The 25:1 student to tutor model mentioned in the article is, of course the optimum but... There are other models. The learning, teaching, assessment and feedback just need to be rethought, with a pedagogical shift away from behaviourist theoretical models and passive learning. Diana Laurilliard's arguments around MOOC participant dropout are the usual crazy, tired complacencies... A Duke MOOC, starting at 12,000, reaching 500 at halfway point. So what? Giving 500 students some teaching and learning benefit is still an incredible educational opportunity! Focus on the potential benefits, not on the downsides!

The model has value for professional development, providing a forum for the dissemination, discussion and development of up-to-date ideas. It could even be used to help academics, teachers and policymakers make technology work in education, and develop effective ways of tackling that huge unmet demand for higher education.

Absolutely! And I agree with the article's assertion that MOOCs can be problematic as an undergraduate learning and teaching model. I disagree with the rather snide end line...

But I have had many opportunities to observe that very intelligent people leave their brains behind when it comes to technology. The Mooc phenomenon is just further confirmation of that simple truth.

It's not about the technology! It's about the education! Technology is a tool, not a phenomenon.

MOOCs have great potential - they are NOT the solution for everything in education and they will not 'replace' conventional higher education. MOOCs can provide great learning for certain students, in certain discipline areas. I'm tired of people across education telling us that we can't do things!

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