#EDCMOOC Week 2: MOOC Pros and Cons

This is a good liberal arts class. It’s very entertaining and thought provoking. I’m 10k not sure I’m going to walk away with anything of any real importance, but it is fun. The main problem I’m having here is with the scale. I’ve yet to connect with a small enough group of people to have any meaningful discussions. I’m on the Facebook and Google+ pages and off follow Twitter, but so far I really haven’t engaged much. This is somewhat ironic, because I am very engaged with a group from the Fundamentals of Online Learning course, which crashed very publicly, due in no small part from the instructor’s attempt to create those small groups.

Week 2 materials start to establish the connection between the class and e-learning. The Corning and Microsoft videos are fun. I thought Corning’s vision to be the more interesting and more realistic. The Microsoft video looked more like a combination of Windows 8 and fantasy. Neither offered any interesting uses for education, though I can imagine many possibilities particularly with the Corning products.

The two sci-fi videos were entertaining, but they didn’t inspire any original ideas. Sight reminds me a little of Total Recall and The Matrix. Charlie 13 is a variation on the theme in Logan’s Run, though not nearly as chilling.

The videos have little connection to education, though they clearly relate to the course topic. The Corning and Microsoft videos are utopian and Charlie 13, dystopian and Sight somewhere in between. Nothing in any of them changed my opinion that technology is essentially neutral, it’s how it is used that defines the good or evil.

The articles and Gardner Campbell’s keynote were more interesting to me and more clearly related to the question at hand, “Are MOOCs good or bad?” And the answer is the same, they’re neutral, it will depend how they are used. When they are used to provide access to education to those that otherwise wouldn’t have it, they are great. Who can 2002 argue with free access to the classes from the best schools in the world? Well, the other, “lesser” schools for starters. These courses have the potential to cherry pick the courses that are the most cost effective, those that support the other more expensive programs at these schools. Why sit in a lecture hall with 300 people at a regional university or junior college when one can get nearly the gallery same information from a professor at Craft an elite school.  I could easily see students staying home, watching the MOOC lectures and only showing up for the test or writing the paper at their real class. In many of these large lecture classes, there isn’t much more interaction between student and teacher than there is in an MOOC, so what’s the difference?

The argument about whether technology or any development is good or bad is a waste of time. It simply is and we have to deal with it. In that I agree with Clay Shirky. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. MOOCs, if successful, will likely change the model for higher education. Jobs will be lost or downgraded and it will be difficult for some to adapt. It will also result in education that’s a little homogenized for my taste, but I suspect there will be enough different schools competing that it won’t be 1984. And homogenized education is certainly better than none. Reaching under/unserved populations could end up being the real boon here. Of course there’s the question of access, but there’s no reason it has to be individual access. The Internet is everywhere to some extent. Why not cram 300 or even 1000 people into Guide one room to watch the lecture for an MOOC in a developing country? This is where MOOCs have the potential to do the most good.

So in the end, it is important to ensure that MOOCs are as effective as possible. They need to be studied with best practices identified and implemented. We recently had an example of what can go wrong with #FOEMOOC course. But what is wonderful about experiments is that even #FOEMOOC-Reload colossal failures provide an incredible amount of important information.

6 thoughts on “#EDCMOOC Week 2: MOOC Pros and Cons

  1. In your case, FOEMOOC is an example of what happens when the experience is peer-centric rather that teacher-centric. You are much more engaged because of your interacting with your peers.

    • Exactly. Which is interesting because FOE was really an xMOOC while EDC is a cMOOC. I think my lack of connection in the connectivist MOOC is partly due to my own ambivalence about the class and the lack of a simple method to connect to smaller groups. I don’t feel a real need to discuss the material so far, other than above, but had it been facilitated, I probably would have and participated more. I think the little nudge would have been a good idea.

      • That would have been part of my point if I had continued with the MOOC-focused point MOOCs won’t relaly change anything unless a) we drop our cultural obsession with traditional credentialling or b) universities agree to provide credentials for non-fee courses. Both of which I imagine have Buckley’s of happening any time soon. Definitely agree that any real revolution/shift will be cultural rather than supply-driven.And yes re: the skills vs content thing, which is why I have such an issue with the structure of most MOOCs it’s all just content delivery. And while I don’t agree with the assertion that people are attracted to courses because they’re offered by Ivy Leagues the point is that if stuff is already out there why try to reinvent the wheel when there’s a giant market for entire vehicles we’re not addressing?

        • As you can probably tell, I didn’t make it through this one either.

          Recent developments with the Georgia Tech, not open MOOC-like CS masters and Coursera offering completion certificates, suggest that credentialing is where they are heading. Of course that brings up questions of accountability, but that’s easily remedied with testing centers.

          I think you underestimate the appeal of classes from Ivys and other top tier schools. I don’t necessarily think it’s justified. After all, teaching isn’t why someone is hired at a research school. But for students at mid-level universities, why not? It’s more convenient and not much different than the survey courses on-campus. It’s my hope that they make the mids look at those survey courses and make some changes to compete.

    • I too doubt that MOOCs will lead to the downfall of trdaationil universities. However, I think the bigger question is whether MOOCs by its existence (as an always available next best alternative for people seeking education), will serve as sufficient competition to universities so that they adapt their curriculum or structure to present a clearer, stronger value proposition to prospective students, as a response to the competitive pressure presented by MOOCs. I would at least hope that universities work to ensure that if tuition rises, at least the value of that education in terms of financial return should remain more or less constant. And the MOOCs are not the only competitors out there. I think universities should take far more notice of programming boot camps that are popping up around the country. This example is so far only true for programming and computer science and its industry, but it is a remarkable example. By their telling, these bootcamps (such as devbootcamp.com) take in classes of ~30 highly motivated people who really want to learn how to program but generally don’t have much prior experience, and over the course of an intense ~10 immersive weeks of 70-80+ hours/week, and a hefty 12K price tag, take them from zero to be a well functioning software developer. And heres the kicker. In the first cohort to graduate, ~90% of the class were able to find jobs as junior developers with an average salary of $80,000 a year. Is that value proposition sustainable? I don’t know. Is it replicable to other fields of study and industries? Perhaps, but only to a select few. But its convinced me. I’ve got a degree in mechanical engineering but I’ve applied to 5 of these bootcamps myself this past week.

      • I think the boot camps are a great option. Why does one need a degree to be a programmer? $12K and ten weeks is certainly a better option for many.
        While most degrees do indeed lead to careers, coupling financial rewards with tuition is a bad idea. We should not conflate the university with vocational school. There’s a reason for all those courses that have nothing to do with the actual major. Most people these days go through numerous career changes in their lifetime and that is only going to increase. A university should be producing well-rounded educated graduates who are life-long learners prepared to meet the challenges of life as they come. Whether they meet those goals is another question. Employers generally aren’t complaining that graduates don’t have specific training, but lack the so-called soft abilities such as critical thinking, team building, and leadership. These are things that should be part of a university program but unfortunately, the true liberal arts degrees seems to be a thing of the past.