Foo Foo About: MOOCs – Massive Open Online Course

Here are some online resources about this Foo Foo/ Myth…

First – from Wikipedia:

massive open online course (MOOC) is a type of online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent development in the area of distance education, and a progression of the kind of open education ideals suggested by open educational resources.

Though the design of and participation in a MOOC may be similar to college or university courses, MOOCs typically do not offer credits awarded to paying students at schools. However, assessment of learning may be done for certification.

MOOCs originated from within the open educational resources movement and connectivist roots. More recently, a number of MOOC-type projects have emerged independently, such as Coursera, Udacity, edX and Academic Room. The prominence of these projects’ founders, contributing institutions, and financial investment helped MOOCs gain significant public attention in 2012. Some of the attention behind these new MOOCs center on making e-learning more scalable either sustainable or profitable.

While there is no commonly accepted definition of a MOOC, two key features seem prevalent:

  • Open access. MOOC participants do not need to be a registered student in a school to “take” a MOOC, and are not required to pay a fee.
  • Scalability. Many traditional courses depend upon a small ratio of students to teacher, but the “massive” in MOOC suggests that the course is designed to support an indefinite number of participants.

Other features associated with early MOOCs, such as open licensing of content, open structure and learning goals, community-centeredness, etc. may not be present in all MOOC projects.

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What Are MOOCs Good For?

Online courses may not be changing colleges as their boosters claimed they would, but they can prove valuable in surprising ways.

By Justin Pope on December 15, 2014


College education remains out of reach for many people.

A few years ago, the most enthusiastic advocates of MOOCs believed that these “massive open online courses” stood poised to overturn the century-old model of higher education. Their interactive technology promised to deliver top-tier teaching from institutions like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, not just to a few hundred students in a lecture hall on ivy-draped campuses, but free via the Internet to thousands or even millions around the world. At long last, there appeared to be a solution to the problem of “scaling up” higher education: if it were delivered more efficiently, the relentless cost increases might finally be rolled back. Some wondered whether MOOCs would merely transform the existing system or blow it up entirely. Computer scientist Sebastian Thrun, cofounder of the MOOC provider Udacity, predicted that in 50 years, 10 institutions would be responsible for delivering higher education.

Then came the backlash. A high-­profile experiment to use MOOCs at San Jose State University foundered. Faculty there and at other institutions rushing to incorporate MOOCs began pushing back, rejecting the notion that online courses could replace the nuanced work of professors in classrooms. The tiny completion rates for most MOOCs drew increasing attention. Thrun himself became disillusioned, and he lowered Udacity’s ambitions from educating the masses to providing corporate training.

For the rest of this article please go – here.

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From Jim Ellsworth, Ph.D.:

MOOCs: Distance Learning’s Race to the Bottom?

It would be more accurate to describe this as the most dangerous education technology in 200 years. What it threatens to do is take those massive, 400-student, freshman lectures we endured as undergrads–where you never get to interact with the professor at all–and multiply them by a few orders of magnitude (think 4,000 “classmates,” or 40,000) and make that the model to emulate. When we have thirty years of empirical evidence now that human learning is caused by a mix of learner-content, learner-learner, and learner-instructorinteractions, only one of which (learner-content) meaningfully takes place in a MOOC.

In other words, MOOCs are–right now, no further study needed–conclusively, scientifically proven, ineffective instruction. They don’t cause learning.

And yet suddenly they’re all the rage, because brilliant business thinkers like Clay (who’s an acquaintance) have tried to generalize their world-changing ideas into a different environment, in which they lack the grounding to know that some of their fundamental assumptions don’t hold. As a change & innovation scholar, I’ve been adapting Clay’s ideas to education for a decade now, and they do hold some valuable lessons for us…but those lessons and the conclusions we can draw from them don’t look anything like Clay’s second book. But unfortunately, the typical government leader or business executive–being in the same boat–goes for it hook, line, and sinker.

So now–when top-tier institutions like the University of Virginia (especially their School of Engineering & Applied Sciences), the U.S. Naval War College, the Naval Postgraduate School,  the Joint Forces Staff College, and the (for-profit) American Public University System have implemented award-winning, evidence-based Distance Education programs and accumulated years (up to a decade) of data showing their effectiveness, these truly disruptive programs, in the sense Clay talks about, are starting to be pressured to incorporate the MOOC model, in a bizarre race to the bottom.

That–if it’s allowed to happen–would be a national tragedy.

– Jim Ellsworth: is the Chief Performance Officer  at the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). Read about him and his role – here.

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Also from Jim:

The seminal work in this area was Michael G. Moore (1989), “Three types of interaction.”American Journal of Distance Education. Searching on that citation will also turn up most of the work built on this.

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From Ryan Tracey:

The future of MOOCs

MOOCs get a bad rap. Dismissed as prescriptive, or teacher-centric, or unsocial, or something else, it’s like a badge of honour to espouse why you dislike MOOCs.

Despite their pedagogical flaws, however, MOOCs provide unprecedented access to quality content for millions of learners.

It’s all very well for Apple-owning, organic-buying professionals to cast aspersions, but consider the girl in Pakistan who’s too scared to set foot in a classroom. Consider the teenager in central Australia whose school has only one teacher. Consider the young woman in Indonesia who can’t afford college. Consider the boy in San Francisco whose maths teacher simply doesn’t teach very well.

Don’t all these people deserve a better education? And isn’t content sourced from some of the world’s best providers a giant leap in that direction?

Sure, the pedagogy may not be perfect, but the alternative is much worse.

MOOC proponent George Siemens distinguishes between two types of MOOC: the xMOOC and the cMOOC.

The former is the subject of such disdain. Involving little more than knowledge transmission and perhaps a quiz at the end, the xMOOC is widely seen as replicating old-fashioned lectures and exams.

In contrast, the latter leverages the connectedness of the participants. Seeded with content, the cMOOC empowers – read “expects” – the learner to discuss, debate, discover, share and co-create new knowledge with his or her fellow learners.

The cMOOC’s participant is active whereas the xMOOC’s participant is passive. As Siemens puts it, cMOOCs focus on knowledge creation and generation whereas xMOOCs focus on knowledge duplication.

Despite Siemens’ evangelism though, I don’t think the cMOOC is necessarily better than the xMOOC. (I’ll explain later.)

See Ryan Tracey’s full post here – here.

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From the CATO Institute…


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From The New Yorker

Will MOOCs be Flukes?


On one hand, MOOCs have achieved some worthy goals: they make top educational resources available, for free or for very low prices, to people who wouldn’t have access to them otherwise, including older populations, people with unpredictable schedules, and international audiences. And the quality of the education they offer can be quite high: the Open University, for instance, which began to offer online courses in the nineties, has consistently ranked among the top universities in the U.K. in measures of student satisfaction.

On the other hand, there are the numbers that gave Thrun pause. MOOCenrollment has soared, but completion rates are abysmal. According to a 2013 study, an average of only five per cent of the students in seventeen Coursera classes offered through the University of Pennsylvania actually finished their classes. Other estimated completion rates hover below thirteen per cent. And not all of the students who completed their courses necessarily passed.

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Fight the Foo Foo

My book on HPT for managers without any of that jargon!
Click on graphic to enlarge.
For more info about this book, please go – here.
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Please add additional resources – about “evidence” and not just “opinions” – either way – in the comments section below.

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8 comments on “Foo Foo About: MOOCs – Massive Open Online Course

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