MOOC’s jumped onto the stage of educational technology with a bang, and have started a new trend in this field by taking once deeply held secret course content and lessons, and making it available for free to anyone who wants it. This trend has influenced the staunchest, most rigid systems to take a second look and re-evaluate why it got in the business of education in the first place. Although it has not been without a few black eyes, MOOCs have opened the doors to a whole new world of possibilities. Whether it is for work, basic retraining purposes, or to field test a course before paying for it, this system has become extremely popular. However, this system only exists because of learning analytics and it uses the collection of data from online quizzes, embedded videos, learning activities, and discussion threads to provide customized learning systems.

Nevertheless, it has its detractors. The main controversy around these types of courses has been around the assessment model. Strongly reliant on peer assessment models, it has had its issues; the most commonly known of which was Coursera’s Passion Driven Statistics Course via Wesleyan University. Numerous posts exploded on how classes over 1000 students were impossible to properly grade and that they would never be seen as a valuable option in education. This sentiment still exists, but the fears around it have somewhat placated with further research in subsequent courses that have provided results stymying the nasayers.

Since then numerous other companies have started and courses are now offered from many major institutions like MIT, Harvard, Cambridge and many more. Now you can choose from a number of different platforms such as edX, udacity, and coursersa.

Currently Cambridge University is offering a course on big data in education. I encourage you to take a look at the course description and sign up. Go through a few the first week modules and respond below or on twitter using the hashtag #mooc. Is this something you have considered, or do you see value in this type of learning environment?

For additional reading I have also included Plymouth University’s Educational Technology experts post on this topic. In it he poses a number of important questions about MOOCs and its future in this field.

10 comments on “MOOCs
  1. psweeze says:

    The first few modules of this MOOC have really got me excited about this platform, and what it is going to look like in the future.

  2. psweeze says:

    The economist’s Schumpter just posted a recent article on MOOCs and pitting them against the more digestible format provided by TED Talks. Although I presume he is just trying to be provocative, is there any weight to his arguments? Do you feel as if bit sized videos no longer then 20 minutes have the power to effect more change in education then the big bad MOOC?

    • Shaimaa says:

      Yes I would be interested in such a thing. As someone who took 2 MOOCs in Coursera, I would say the arguments Schumpter is making are a bit simplistic. Equating a full learning experience including content, quizzes, forums, assignments, tests and sometimes projects with TED videos is not fair. I am not saying that TED videos are not good or useful. I am just trying to highlight the difference between what one is expecting to know/ learn when they participate in course vs when you watches a video talk.

      It is true MOOCs, and more specifically xMOOCs have several problems that they still need to deal with like assessment, individualized learning experience and certification. Yet, this does not minimize their value to a mere collection of video lectures that can be replaced by TED talks

      • psweeze says:

        I completely agree. In no way would I consider it equitable, and I have to assume he was just trying to be provocative as the two are completely different learning platforms.
        I’m really interested to hear what courses you took from coursera and curious why you chose them as opposed to the others in the MOOC field?
        I really appreciate your insights 🙂

  3. jldr says:

    I am looking forward to the possibility of taking this MOOC in the future.The current and potential uses of learning analytics are very fascinating.

    Although MOOCs can deliver quality learning experiences, they continue to struggle with accurately assessing them. There will have to be some sort of major breakthrough in this area if they are ever going to be able to assess what students can do with what they know when it is currently difficult to even determine what they know.

    FYI – the second link also goes to the Coursera page 🙂

    • psweeze says:

      Thanks for catching that! I am a huge fan of Steve Wheeler and encourage you to check it out now that I’ve fixed it. He really has great insights on all things ed tech, but I especially like his review of this topic. If you want a more in depth look, follow the link he provides to Thomas Friedman’s deconstruction in the NY Times, it’s really quite something.
      As for the validity of peer assessment, I am more open to the idea of peer assessment as monitored by a facilitator or expert. I’ve found Daphne Koller’s Ted Talk on online learning a great reference for seeing a successful model in action… albeit a bias one as she is one of the founders of coursera. Nevertheless, it’s a great watch, and her course on probabilistic graphical models lends itself as a great extension to learning analytics and might be something to look into as well.

  4. alemon says:

    The question of assessment and MOOCs is interesting to me and seems to be one that over time will be able to be resolved with different kinds of LA. Relying solely on peer assessment (or any one tool) will likely not result in the kind of meaningful assessment that most students and educators want to be involved with. Adding different interactive web tools that provides different kinds of LA data could help to generate a more complete picture of the learning that is taking place – even in classes with over 1000 students. The opportunities for collaboration and discussion in such a learning environment could be very positive and the evolving assessment methods should not prevent MOOCs from spreading into many different subject/content areas.

    I have taken a course offered through iTunes U on the “History of the Roman Empire” and thoroughly enjoyed the experience (it helped that this is an area of interest for me) – without any formal assessment taking place. Although, I did not receive credit for the course, I feel that I came away with a greater understanding of the topic than when I began. The missing piece was having different ways to check my understanding as the course progressed. Having web tools that can make this happen in an authentic and meaningful way is clearly the direction that MOOCs are headed in and will make the experience that much more meaningful for students and educators.

    • psweeze says:

      I’m intrigued by all of the different offerings that MET students have taken, and am definitely interested in a iTunes U course. However, with apple’s proprietary nature I wonder if they will allow for other companies that have LA features to be embedded in their system like knewton or knowlliadge. Otherwise I fear iTunes U will be lost unless they come up with their own system that allows for more useful anayltics and a true dashboard for teachers to utilize.

    • I think your experience with your “History of the Roman Empire” shows one of the strengths of MOOCs. They can be used in order to learn for the sake of learning. They are intriguing as a tool for self-directed study.

  5. I took a look at the course, but decided not to sign up for it as I don’t intend on taking it just yet. The class looks really interesting, and would certainly be a great opportunity at professional development. I’m a big supporter of MOOCs. The criticism is your outlined is warranted, but in my humble opinion, MOOCs allow people with ambition and drive to continue learning. Moreover, they can do so without sacrificing that significant portion of their paycheck that was required to continue education in the past. I’m not so certain that MOOCs follow through on the promise of narrowing the wealth gap present in higher-Ed, but they certainly provide a platform for self-starters and people interested in continuing education to better themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *