Saturday, May 2, 2015

MOOC: “End of Reform”, or Beginning of Possibility?

For this very last post of this semester, I’m trying to make a juxtaposition between Aaron Bady’s “The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform” and Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel’s “If Freire Made a MOOC”, not only because both of them apparently comment on the MOOC phenomenon, but I also see part of Bady’s revelation of the dark side of MOOC serves as the footnotes for Morris and Stommel’s. Although I do have already known this form of online open courses for a long time and took one to help me prepare for my Japanese proficiency test, it was not long ago that I came across this acronym “MOOC”. Despite that we have been talking about visualization for almost the whole semester, the emergence of MOOC requires a new definition of visualization: not only knowledge is presented by digital technologies, but even teachers who are teaching the knowledge are framed into the small screen either. How should we view this MOOCification of education? What are we, as teachers, supposed to do in its heyday? I think Bady’s and Morris and Stommel’s articles shed light upon these questions.

In “The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform”, Bady expresses a strongly negative feeling towards MOOC’s “reshaping the face of higher education”, which is either “disrupting education through innovation” or “simply representing the disruption of education as it is embedded in the market”. Neither of the routes is pleasant, we have to say. Bady is not denying the MOOC as a whole—he recognizes its value as a free educational resource, “a free and useful thing, available to those that want it”. If we merely use these sites—Coursera, Udacity, and edX—to learn something that we are interested in on a surface level, we may find it more convenient and less painstaking than sitting in a class and pay one-hundred-percent attention to the teacher. However, when MOOCs get into higher education and become a replacement for traditional face-to-face college classes for college students to get credits in order to graduate on time, it’s an entirely different picture. Bady’s concerns about the MOOC phenomenon focus on three aspects: the market value of MOOCs, the aggravation of hierarchy within education system, and the blind optimism about learning process and outcomes. First and foremost, MOOC has pushed higher education into the market, but not in a friendly way. It devalues the “chairs” in classrooms while increasing its own market value, which violates the original intention of MOOC as a free public resource. Secondly, instead of decentralizing the classroom, MOOC’s “teacher-as-content” creates a wider gap between students and teachers—students even lose their rights to question and interact with teachers. In addition, the hierarchy within education system is further developed—MOOCs are attached to the label of “Harvard”, “MIT” and other forefront universities, using their “symbolic role in American higher education to define the new cutting edge”, leaving the low prestige university, University of Phoenix, cry over its own innovation. Last but not least, “MOOC boosters” sometimes hold over-expectation for MOOC, while the truth is low completion of the courses; and when it comes under the circumstance of higher education, there turns out to be a lot of cheating. Actually this is what I’m worrying about MOOC, too. We surely need to trust our students for their independent learning ability and self-discipline, but it may not be a safe bet. How can we expect them to learn effectively with a video, when they cannot even devote themselves wholeheartedly in a face-to-face classroom? How do you perceive MOOC’s replacement for the live classroom?

Although Bady concludes his critique by saying that “MOOCs are more like an end of something than a beginning”, Morris and Stommel are milder and more positive towards MOOCs’ popularity. Like Bady, they also notice the drawback of most MOOCs that “reinforces ossified hierarchical relationships in learning environments”. However, they don’t see it as a dead end; instead, they are looking for a possible way out. In light of the Critical Pedagogy advocated by Paulo Freire, Morris and Stommel believe that “make a space for open dialogue, and change can occur”, and propose that “a course is a starting point, a space in which learners can experiment with their agency, discover the complexity of their oppression, and begin to work toward more liberated action”. Therefore, they suggest 6 theses to “reimagine MOOCs”, each of them presented in a “What the Critical Pedagogy advocates—How the most MOOCs are in conflict with it—What we need to do as a remediation” pattern. It does offer some insights about the direction towards which MOOCs should head to. I’m not going to illustrate the theses one by one; instead, let’s dig out how critical pedagogy may influence MOOCs’ future as a whole. The two main arguments Morris and Stommel make are as follows: 1) In order to create collaborative learning environment, teachers must cede authority and students experiment their agency. Traditional teaching establish teachers’ role as “sage on the stage”, and MOOCs, where teachers are inapproachable on screen, further intensify the problem. Critical Pedagogy calls for a more dynamic classroom and content as well, so that what we need to transform MOOCs to that expectation. 2) The notion of “outcome” should be reimagined within the Critical Pedagogy. Grades should “give way to epiphanies”, and correspondingly, standardized assessment should be rethought as “a reflective and recursive process that emerges from within a learning community rather than structuring that community in advance”. That’s something MOOCs should seek to accomplish. Well, I have to admit that although this article is titled “If Freire Made a MOOC”, it’s more like an introduction to Critical Pedagogy, and MOOC is only its additional value, a field where this Critical Pedagogy can apply to as a remediation. While I was reading the theses, my gut reaction was like “Yes, I agree that changes should be made to MOOCs, but how?” I expected more from the authors, because I couldn’t come up with a way of fulfilling this, but they just scratch the surface without going deeply into it. From my viewpoint, MOOC, in the form of pre-recorded videos, can hardly cater to all the students’ needs, and thus is difficult to incorporate the Critical Pedagogy into it. So I wonder if you practicing teachers have any idea about how it may work successfully?

In the last thesis, Morris and Stommel assure that “technology will never replace teachers”, which evokes my thinking about teachers’ role in the MOOC era. With MOOCs swiping across universities like “campus tsunami”, do you see any possibility that they may one day capture high schools, middle schools or even elementary education (or has your school already been using this kind of teaching method)? How will teachers’ role change by then? Will we become the TAs for the teachers who are teaching in the video? Looking forward to your thoughts!

p.s. Sorry for being lengthy! And please excuse me for the grammar mistakes if any :P 


  1. Jiuqing - excellent job breaking down each article and showing how the authors offer their own separate critiques on all things MOOC. I would really like to hear more about your experiences with MOOCs. That goes for others too!

    I would like to first address your questions about face-to-face engagement and the replacement of the face-to-face classroom by MOOCs. I do agree that students do have a difficult time staying engaged in a face-to-face setting. If discussions go on too long in what we consider a normal class, I generally find myself floating off into daydreamland. Even in a cyber setting, like this blog, I find it hard to stay focused on one task, like writing this post. I see it in my students too. Honestly, it is how our culture is at this time – there is always something better going on right now than where you are – and you could even make a case that it has been this way forever. It’s just that now we can see a digital representation of a daydream or a conversation by making a few clicks and finger movements = instant gratification. It is part of a teacher’s job to try to keep students invested in their class by making the activities and discussion important and viable to their students. If they don’t feel it is worth their time or that they are having meaningful experiences, then it’s on to the MOOC. I think that MOOCs allow people the opportunity to get an education at their own pace. Or perhaps it is better to say that it allows the opportunity to get information at their own pace. A student in a MOOC could stop the lecture, go for a bike ride, and then continue later on. The problem, as Morris and Stommel state, is that we are losing the dialogue, the risk-taking, the agency, and the heartbreak (or ideabreak) that can happen in a classroom where the instructor and student are both seen as learners, where the instructor pushes the student to consider ideas that are outside of his/her grasp and explore them. For example, they say, “While connectivist MOOCs have made great strides in reimagining learning experiences as co-intentional, the majority of MOOCs do not ask questions about student agency. In general, they do nothing to innovate online pedagogies; but worse, almost as a response to the massive nature of the courses, MOOC designers have removed even further the opportunity for students to take control of their own learning by disconnecting them utterly from the power of the teacher.” It’s hard to say if MOOCs will replace classrooms. It depends on whether or not we culturally value education as a dialogue or as a banking system. Right now, it is a dialogue, but it could shift.

  2. Cont.

    You also ask, “So I wonder if you practicing teachers have any idea about how it may work successfully?“ I do think that MOOCs are beneficial for some things – like maybe a quick overview or a survey of something. I think we could think about them as we did in our discussion about Wikipedia. I think we said something like Wikipedia is where we can go to get a quick overview, but it’s not a place to dig deep. I feel similarly about MOOCs at the moment. However, who knows? Maybe they will one day have one “designer/teacher” and a bunch of TAs running online discussion groups and creating group projects, creating dialogue in another way. Or maybe it is possible that we will one day move to a culture where we do not appreciate the dialogue. That would, uh, suck.

    In my own classroom, I do occasionally use a flipped pedagogical approach. This means that students watch a video of me talking about something at home and do some sort of questions in order to prepare for the class activity in our next face-to-face meeting. It is as close as I come to virtual teaching and I don’t do it much because my 8th graders hate doing things at home. Often on these days I come in and say, “let’s complete an activity on _____, which you learned about last night, and have a discussion.” Half of the class stares at me like a two-headed dog. It just doesn’t work for my kids. I could never imagine a MOOC approach in middle school. There is too much for students to learn about communicating with one another in the class setting. They have to be able to see one another and react and most importantly make mistakes – get up, be active, move around, yell at each other…the list goes on. I think, in general, if we took the classroom out of teaching in any aspect K-higher ed, it would show that people just really don’t value communicating with one another face-to-face and that legitimately scares me.

    Well, here’s to a semester of great blog posts and discussion with y’all.

  3. "I also see part of Bady’s revelation of the dark side of MOOC serves as the footnotes for Morris and Stommel’s." I absolutely love this, Jiuqing, because I think it is a great way of thinking about the shaky ground Morris and Stommel are attempting to navigate in reconciling Freirean pedagogy and the delivery-focused platform of the MOOC. While the MOOC is simply one form of online learning, I feel that it serves as a kind of metonym for (non-face-to-face) forms of online education. As both you (Jiuqing) and Brian point out, the MOOC operates as a kind of "surface-level" environment for learning, one that should not be so easily dismissed. What is frightening is the movement that Bady describes toward a "market-value" based model of education, which sees education merely as a credential that can be purchased, rather than an ongoing process of learning. This is why the completion rate issue is so revealing. I don't think most users of MOOCs see it as a substitute for face-to-face learning. As Wesleyan University President Michael Ross puts it in his recent book _Beyond the University_, "saying someone 'failed to complete' a free, open online class is like saying someone 'failed to complete' the New Yorker" (15). The problem is that policy makers don't see MOOCs as a form of journalism. They see it as an opportunity for public sector savings and private sector gain. For those who don't have time to go beyond the surface, the MOOC represents a free, democratic, form of education that offers Ivy league education to children in the Sudan. Never mind the fact that Harvard still won't let them into their "real" classes, especially for free and especially without an internet connection. Those details don't matter because at the end of the day there is monetary model that drives this "altruistic" movement.

  4. Jiuqing, thank you so much for tackling this very complicated issue with your illuminating post. Like Alex, I also like the way in which you saw one article as a footnote for the other. In reading both articles, my thought process leaned towards what the MOOCs currently are via Bady's scathing condemnation versus Morris and Stommel's kind of idealistic view of what it could be. The main difference to me was in seeing the vast differences in how monetizing these courses create a very real and worrisome issue from both a financial and administrative standpoint. The viewpoint of the administrators in favor of the greater legitimizing of MOCCs in the life of the regular college student seem very much to care more about the amount of students they can move through their universities as quickly as possible and very little about the quality of the education or the experience the students are having. To see administrators at these universities be so flippant to these crucial aspects of the university experience definitely gives me pause. On the other hand, while Morris and Stommel's approach to the MOCCs seems somewhat innovative and fresh, the reality of what they propose seems to ignore the very reason these corporations and some administrators are so enthusiastic about MOCCs - that they are low cost, low labor, highly repeatable ways in which to raise revenue. The fact that two of the companies mentioned are for profit makes this doubly suspicious.

    I honestly at this point can't see our roles changing in place of the MOOCs as I have a difficult time at this point seeing it as much more than a passing fad. However, if states like California are suddenly able to legitimize them within the requirements of a degree, they become a whole different scary ballgame. I would love to see MOOCs developed under the guidelines presented by Morris and Stommel as I think they present it being used, for the first time as I've seen, as a chance to have a new and interesting interaction as a pedagogical tool. Unfortunately, as market often dictates, I don't know that what they propose is ever actually realistic, when for profit corporations exist to kind of exploit the idea of MOOCs to make more money at less and less of a cost.

  5. A tremendously interesting post, Jiuqing. Like several have already noted, your observation that Bady’s was the footnotes to Morris and Stommel was on point, and had me nodding in agreement as I read. I can’t help but think back to my own experiences with MOOC’s and consider how it conforms or differs from those presented in the articles. I took a few MOOC’s through FutureLearn, a collection of free online courses. While not close to as thorough as a university course taken while sitting in a physical classroom, it served as both an opportunity to expand knowledge and experience something new. With this first-hand experience I feel as if MOOC’s, as I know them, are not a serious pursuit of a degree so much as a chance for those with the desire to learn something in particular in the space of a few weeks. In one case, my fellow MOOC classmates were teenagers, housewives, and career men, who either never earned a degree, hadn't gotten that far yet, or had long since left university and now enjoyed comfortable careers or families and had no interest in seriously pursuing advanced degrees. They were in it for the knowledge and the flexibility of the MOOC allowed them to go at their own pace, at whichever time of day.

    In light of this, I am positively inclined towards MOOCs, even if I do not find them compatible with my preferred learning experience. However, as an international student who had a brush with a graduate course becoming unavailable to me as an option due to it becoming an online course, I also view it as a threat to the concept and idea of being an international student. They are incredibly convenient for the acquiring of knowledge at the pace of an individual who may not be able to live the ordinary student life, but for students such as myself and others that seek to learn the interpersonal skills and experience the cultural exchange that comes out of attending university as a physical place, MOOCs are undermining elements of our education as social creatures. The concept of universities converting to the format makes me uneasy and my hackles rise in such a manner that almost makes me want to clutch my pearls to my chest in shock, no matter how much of a proponent of technology I am. Think of the children!

    But, like Erik, I also find it difficult to see my fears becoming reality. I really hope more places like FutureLearn show up, where the courses are free and the assignments are very much focused on the online students interacting and engaging the materials. To see Morris and Stommel's guidelines become reality in conjunction with that would be absolutely fantastic. I am, however, thankful that my country is a big fan of free education and probably will never adopt MOOCs as a business model, because that entire concept conjures up nothing but disgust.

  6. Wonderful post, thanks so much. I should first say that I like MOOCs, though I did not know they had a name until this week. When I come upon a subject that I feel I should know about, they act as a great way to fill in some of the gaps of my education. That being said, I have conflicting feelings about them. Granted, MOOCs offer a tremendous amount of information for free to those who would otherwise have no access to them, but what I am curious about as I read is the accreditation process. If someone completes a MOOC is there anyway of certifying that they have completed the course, or learned the material? Certainly online courses can provide a student with the means of taking a class that may have not had a ‘free chair,’ but this is still for the student within the university system. What of the person who wants to learn more about marketing so that he can get a job, will the completion of a MOOC help him get the job? It may be the case that this is the MOOC moment, but for practical purposes, will any employer consider a MOOC on a resume? This gets to the center of the question of why people go into higher education. If the purpose of higher education is empowerment through learning, then MOOCs offer that opportunity. If higher education exists as a way of getting better employment, then MOOcs have a long way to go.

  7. Thank you, Jiuqing! I must have been living under a rock for the past few years, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard the acronym MOOC, and even if I have, I could not have told you what it stood for prior to reading these articles. Your blog post does a great job of explaining and examining this new, or should I say, re-branded, online education phenomenon. Although I knew little of MOOCs prior to these articles, the one by Bady was very informative and I enjoyed reading it. For all of the critiques that he makes of MOOCs; that they “are literally built to cater to the attention span of a distracted and multi-tasking teenager, who pays attention in cycles of 10-15 minutes,” that they offer little room for teacher-student interaction, and break down information to make it “easily digestible,” the biggest problem with them is the one that is he building throughout the article, and spends the most time analyzing. I completely agree with his assertion that “if a MOOC is simply a free educational resource that you can find on the web—which is what MOOCs presently are—then there’s nothing to object to in them.” While I was first reading this, I was thinking only of the issues within the MOOC’s themselves, the same issues that I’ve always experiences with online classes: they don’t offer enough interaction, can easily fall in line with the “banking concept” of education, and rarely inspire as much as face-to-face courses. These are all fairly fixable problems and Morris addresses solutions to many of these problems in his article, however, “the moment that such a use value becomes legible as a market value, when it becomes something that can be exchanged for the kinds of course credits that students pay very high tuition for, MOOCs become a radically different beast, with a radically different kind of economic value.” These courses are, as Bady explains, a cheap solution to a serious systematic flaw within our universities. If schools intend to offer these courses in lieu of adding more courses so students can graduate on time, and if bill’s like Senate 520 are passed and duplicated throughout the country, I think we will have a serious problem on our hands.

    Although I agree with many points made in the article by Morris, I agree with Jiuqing that this article seems to be “more like an introduction to Critical Pedagogy, and MOOC is only its additional value, a field where this Critical Pedagogy can apply to as a remediation.” Anyone who believes in problem-posing education or Critical Pedagogy will most likely agree with the author’s assertions, and I do think that MOOCs should, at the least, be framed as such; however, the authors don’t really address how this can be accomplished. Ironically enough, their solutions sort of contradict their opening statement that “there is no use in mere hopefulness.” Although their points are helpful, they don’t offer much concrete evidence or solutions to the problems that MOOC entail. I can’t critique too harshly though because I don’t have any solutions myself. I think if MOOCs are claiming to be “re-branded” or “revolutionized” and are furthermore potentially going to be required, (at least for the student who wants to graduate on time and can’t get into a lecture course) they should actually deliver on their promise, and instead not be the “always cheaper and almost never better” typical online courses that as Bady points out, have already been around for decades.

  8. Thank you, Jiuqing for your incredibly thought provoking post!

    I'm so up in the air with how I feel about MOOCs. One the one hand, I, like so many others, think they are a great way to get a degree at your own pace, especially if you're a parent or are slowly making a career change. And free MOOCs are even better because if you want to just take a class solely to expand your knowledge, then it is great that we have the technology to help you accomplish that. However, if you are taking the class to complete a degree, I think you need to have the motivation and the dedication to do that. You need to be able to take the class and not get distracted. Which brings us to my concerns about MOOCs. I think it's incredibly hard to stay on task when you're not physically in the classroom. This semester, I have a class that has been half face-to-face and half online and I've been having a devil of a time staying on task! I need the act of leaving my house and going to class and sitting down with my peers in order to get my in-class work done. I need it to feel like class, not like I'm just sitting in my living room watching a video. But perhaps that just me, a very easily distracted person.

    I don't think that MOOCs will ever become part of elementary, middle, and high school. One of the biggest things students need to learn while they are going through school is how to socialize with their peers. They need to learn how to have discussions and how to interact with other students. Without proper socialization how will they ever become well rounded adults? I, like Tiril, say to myself, "Think of the children!!"

    So, while I think that MOOCs have a place in high education, I don't think they should replace the physical classroom. And I hope it's not a naive to say that I don't think they will replace it. I like to think that students know themselves and know if they can be motivated enough to participate in MOOCs (I know I wouldn't have been motivated). And I don't think MOOCs have a place in elementary and secondary education. Because of how important socialization is at those ages, I think that it's important that those students have the physical act of going to class and participating there.

  9. Thanks for this, Jiuqing. Your hesitations and concerns with MOOCs generally reflect my own, and I think you hit on a core part of the issue here in describing how people perceive them. When it comes to authenticity, I think you’re right – it just isn’t there, not like in a face-to-face classroom. Not that it entirely should be (I’m hesitant to argue one way or the other), but my own work with online courses – even those that are given for credit, such as CRW 272 here at UMB – is that most students feel that these classes are somehow ‘less real’ than their face to face classes. Never mind the instructional method of the MOOC (or other forms of online classroom), if students are habitually labeling the online learning space as the last priority, then I think this tells us two things: 1. That online environments are at an inherent disadvantage to face to face classrooms and 2. That physical presence (of the instructor/classroom) imbues this authenticity.
    And I think these issues are aggravated once you remove the instructor from the situation entirely. I believe thinking of these types of MOOCs as more ivy-league ‘information’ rather than ivy-league ‘education’ is probably a more apt direction. Forgetting the procrastinating urge in most students that would probably kill the attempt for them, the sheer lack of feedback takes the dialogue and external ratification out of learning, which might actually do harm for the inquisitive individual.
    This all reminds me of something I read recently on concerning the Oculus Rift, the completely immersive VR helmet that got a lot of press a couple of years ago. Up until now, it has been used mainly to freak people out on simulated roller coaster rides, but this article described people who are developing software for it that could potentially revolutionize the online classroom – mainly, by simulating a real one. Now I know this is somewhat derivative from MOOCs and the stated mission for unilateral access for education (since one would have to own this pricy electronic device to participate), but think about it: you put on the Oculus Rift and sit at your desk. All around you is the classroom, with your professor standing up at the front and your ‘classmates’ surrounding you, creating an ‘authentic’ experience through a digital environment. Now I know this concept is… nascent, to say the least, but that people hold this up as the Utopia of online learning tells me that, however functional they are, the structure and layout of an online classroom is there primarily to accommodate the inability to conduct face to face education. Until the institutions who design these MOOCs can demonstrably show they are working towards this ideal in instruction, I think it’s safe for us to raise an eyebrow when they say their end-goal is education.

  10. Thanks for your insightful post, Jiuqing!

    I agree with much of what you had to say about the Critical Pedagogy piece. I think the ideas are awesome, but I find that the immense practical challenges they would seem to pose are largely unaddressed. Perhaps this wasn’t there intention — its certainly still a valuable piece but I can’t help wondering about the logistics of letting “the course unfold according to the whim and determination of the group.”

    I guess I find myself sympathizing with Bady’s concerns. I was particularly convinced by the backwards temporality that he discusses in which we’re told that we are always, already, too late. It got me thinking about all the other areas of life this applies to, besides the creation of MOOCs. This kind of temporality seems relevant to the exasperating forward motion of technology in general. We all line up to buy the iPhone 6 when it’s released without giving much (any, in my case) to what is wrong with our old phone/what is better about the new one. This lack of reflection is definitely scary and I appreciated Bady slowing things down to take a more serious look at the realities of the MOOC. The critical pedagogy piece seems to be a little too optimistic in its embrace of, perhaps unrealizable, possibilities.

  11. Thanks for your post Jiuqing! These two readings clearly offer very different takes on an interesting question, and you did a great job of connecting and comparing them.

    In theory, I think that MOOCs are a great idea. I love the thought of people who do not have the time or money to attend a traditional university having the chance to access interesting high level content and instruction.And yet, I also share a number of Bady's concerns about how this "movement" if we want to call it that has actually emerged. It's one thing if we are viewing MOOCs simply as a useful and interesting resource for personal leaning and exploration (this seems like the best model to me). But, once we go past that and start looking at MOOCs as a replacement for traditional education, or even worse, as a tool for institutions to cut costs, I become much more concerned. My fear is that, as Bady suggests, "it is not education that’s driving this shifting conversation."

    As with so many of the other tools we have explored this semester I see MOOCs as something that could be very useful either for individual exploration, or as something to be thoughtfully incorporated into a larger course plan by a skilled instructor. I do not see it as something that ever could or should replace the work we do in a physical classroom. Like Brian and Tiril, I would be especially concerned about the loss of social interaction that would result from an over-reliance on MOOCs. Education is so much more than just passive reception of information, and it is hard for me to imagine how any MOOC could genuinely make up for or correct this loss. Morris and Stommel acknowledge this problem, but as you noted they do not seem to have much to specifically offer with regards to how we make MOOCs more than just "a static reservoir or receptacle for content."

  12. Jiuqing, excellent work! You do a great job of reviewing the assigned pieces, adding commentary about the trajectory of the MOOC movement!

    Between the articles themselves and everyone’s Annotation Studio contributions, there’s been plenty of food for thought. With that being said, I was particularly struck when reading Jiuqing’s summary of the second argument put forth by Morris and Stommel: “Grades should ‘give way to epiphanies’, and correspondingly, standardized assessment should be rethought as ‘a reflective and recursive process that emerges from within a learning community rather than structuring that community in advance’.” As I get deeper and deeper into my teaching career, I find myself delving deeper and deeper into (self-reflective) questions about the value of assessment. There’s not much to me that’s more depressing than encountering a student who puts the academic cart before the horse, caring far more about the grade than the learning/process/content/knowledge that is supposed to be encountered while working towards a grade. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this at every level in high school – from college prep freshmen to AP seniors. And although I understand the students’ motivations for wanting to earn high marks, I am always trying to figure out how I can convince them that the grade should not be the object of desire.

    As such, I’m worried that the MOOC is only going to reinforce this troubling mindset.

    With one of the supposed advantages of an MOOC being the ability to enroll (insanely) more students in a class, the opportunity for personal attention has to diminish. Consequently, so does the opportunity for assessments to be based on more in-depth projects/assignments. If a teacher/professor has hundreds of students enrolled in an MOOC, is the final assignment going to be a portfolio or an objective exam? It’s not hard to guess. Perhaps I’m just using this as an excuse to vent, but a recurring dream of mine during this school year was to have fewer students so that I could assign more comprehensive writing/assignments and go deeper with each. However, Morris and Stommel suggest that my hippie-daydreams may have to remain just that if MOOCs rock the block: “In MOOCs — and online learning more generally — assessment has political implications. Without measurable successes, alternative instructional delivery methods cannot prove themselves viable.”

    With that being said, I have to acknowledge that I’m haphazardly sifting through my own biases, and as such look forward to seeing everyone in class. Take that, MOOC!

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  14. Awesome post Jiuquing!!!! I apologize for my late response!!!

    Last semester I studied MOOC’s at length in two of my education classes- New Literacies and Technologies EDG 648 and EDG 660 Data Planning Curriculum. EDG 648 was a lot like this class, except I learned how to teach English with technology, except there were math, science, social studies, Latin, and elementary teachers in the class as well and they had to use the same assignments (webquests, simulations, hypertexts, etc) to teach their content focus. In EDG 660 Salar Khan’s book about his invention, the Khan Academy which is essentially a MOOC, was our one and only textbook for the course. EDG 660 was all about using MCAS scores to plan lessons but we discussed at length why Khan’s MOOC was so successful and his idea of a “flipped classroom.” Coincidentally, we studied flipped classrooms in EDG 648 and hearing the two different views held by the two different professors was really interesting.
    First off, both teachers agreed that MOOC’s are not going to replace regular classrooms anytime soon. Khan, who has one of the most successful MOOCs does not advocate for replacing a teacher but rather having these online courses supplement a classroom experience led by a teacher. Numerous studies have been conducted that show that students test better after participating in a MOOC like Khan Academy because, “MOOC’s are literally built to cater to the attention span of a distracted and multi-tasking teenager, who pays attention in cycles of 10-15 minutes,” (Bady). Because of how classrooms work today, teachers have to move on to teaching the next standard whether every student in the class has mastered the standard or not. Thus, children tend to have “swiss cheese” understandings of certain topics or subjects. They are missing certain pieces of knowledge because they either weren’t able to grasp the content during regular class time or they may have been out of the day and never received the instruction in the first place. With a MOOC like the Khan Academy, each student moves at his/her own pace and can’t move to the next topic until he/she has mastered the current one. The lessons are given in short 10-15 minute segments (supposedly the optimum attention span for learning something). As Bady says, “MOOCs will break a unit of pedagogy down into youtube-length clips that can be more easily digested, whenever and wherever. Much longer than that, and it falls apart.” However, these courses were organized in a certain way that a teacher is still present in the class helping students along and monitoring progress.
    As my teachers from last semester happily would tell you, a high school in Boston tried to do away with teachers and traditional classrooms and went to all online learning a few years back. The school was a complete failure and no longer exists (unfortunately I don’t remember what it was called). MOOC’s are beneficial for students taking certain classes that need flexible options, however complete online education is not realistic at this time. Through Khan’s book, One World Schoolhouse, he discusses at length why students should have access to technology and MOOC’s to enhance their understanding of course content, but without a live teacher all learning/teaching experiments he conducted were not successful. MOOC’s allow you to increase student teacher ratio’s without test scores suffering (and test scores actually improved for all students in Khan’s experiments with MOCC’s in a large classroom), but students did still need some direction, monitoring, and occasional help from a live teacher. I think MOOC’s are a great supplemental resource for students but I do not think they will replace teachers anytime soon, they may just reduce the number of teachers needed.


MOOCS: A Problematic Solution to the Disinvestment in Public Higher Education

I agree wholeheartedly with Bady’s cynicism of the speed, inevitability, and necessity of the MOOC movement. From 2011-2015 I direct...