|Event||MOOCs in-class presentation|
|Date of event||Tuesday, May 28, 2013|
|Time of event||1:15pm until 3:05pm|
|Place||School of Education 313, Stanford University|
|Date of record||Wednesday, May 29, 2013|
|People present||Marc Sanders (presenter)|
This week’s presentation focused on Online Learning spaces. Included in Marc’s definition of online learning spaces were:
- Basic Webpages (Wikipedia, etc)
- YouTube, iTunes (these allow for some community interaction and discussion)
- Virtual classrooms (run like a normal physical classroom, just in the virtual space)
- Course/learning management systems (CourseWork, Sakai, ecollege, Blackboard, etc.)
- Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University
- NovoEd/Venture Lab
- edX/Stanford’s version of edX
- Udacity, Google Course Builder
The bulk of Marc’s lecture focused on the MOOC platforms Coursera, NovoEd, and edX. Each of these has slightly different approaches, but most basically they offer a variety of courses taught by professors from well-known universities. Like a typical college course, they all include lectures, assignments, deadlines, and some form of assessment. Unlike a typical college course, these courses have students from all over the world enrolled.
One significant difference between Coursera and edX is that edX is an open platform, which allows for much more development and customization. Additionally, the founding group of edX is extremely interested in the research element of the platform, so they’re using it to test new ideas (for example, Marc mentioned they’re looking at things like Artificial Intelligence as a grading aid.) Another difference that at first seems minor but could really impact the experience is that Coursera divides its course material into separate sections for lectures, quizzes, etc. while edX groups all the material for one lesson together.
NovoEd/Venture Lab seems to be the most different of the three. It focuses on project based learning, and each student is assigned to a project teams. The platform is designed to foster tight communication and interaction amongst people on a project team, so even small details – like requiring students to upload a picture to their profile – are considered. Additionally, unlike Coursera, the lectures are not necessarily the main conduits for content, so they tend to be shorter.
One of the major topics that always comes up with MOOCs is the attrition rate, and to this end Marc had some very interesting points. First, he drew the analogy between MOOCs and Amazon: if Amazon announced that you could download any kindle title for free, many people would probably download quite a few books, but how many of those books would be read? Even if they’re not all read, would the overall amount of reading go up? In the same way, people are signing up for many, many classes and only completing a few, but still the overall amount of learning is probably increasing.
The second point that Marc made about attrition was one that resonated particularly strongly with me. He argued that calling these “courses” is really misleading, saying, “The terminology that we use has framed the conversation in a way that is uninteresting and unproductive.” In other words, by calling them courses, we establish a certain expectation of what a course really is and so instead of focusing on the massive amount of information and knowledge that is being shared, we choose to focus on the number of people who fail to complete a “course.” To me this makes a lot of sense because I think the power of these platforms is that they give us a great set of resources to use as we see fit – often, I’m not looking to take a full college course on something, I just want to know more about a specific thing. If we can start to shift the discussion of MOOCs in this direction, I think they hold a ton of potential.