Jennifer Wing1 describes University of Washington professor Matt McGarrity’s public speaking MOOC as “wildly-popular.” Students “post their speeches on Facebook and YouTube, often talking to a camera, alone in a room.” This simple video approach has implications for courses in other fields that require observable performance. In the not too distant future, I’m certain teachers and students will be posting videos of their comments in online discussion forums, adding a dimension that’s missing in text-only forums. Taken a step further, I can imagine how students will routinely submit video versions of their essays and research papers.
Just how important is ICT2 skills? “Technology is now so central to education,” says Michele Koh Morollo3, “that students who are denied it are being actively disadvantaged. Not only will their ICT skills be lower, their language skills and academic performance will suffer relative to their counterparts who do have access to technology.” Morollo’s second point is a warning: “Once a student has left university, no employer is going to look at them unless they have basic ICT skills.”
Phoebe Magdirila4 reports that Gian Scottie Javelona, the 20-year-old CEO of Orange Apps, has just launched Khawna, which “offers various courses to people who may need additional know-how in science, technology, engineering and entrepreneurship. The courses are presented in a tutorial video format and are taught by industry experts.” The online courses are free, and mobile apps for Android and iOS will soon be available, making them accessible via smartphones. Noteworthy is the fact that “MOOC” isn’t mentioned in Magdirila’s article.
According to Scott Martindale5, one of the questions raised by Sarah Eichhorn, UC Irvine’s associate dean for distance learning, is: “‘Is there an opportunity to direct students into paying for our [MOOCs]?” Eichhorn is echoing the question that has stumped higher ed administrators for the last year or so. Questions are critical. They’re the roadmaps for what we actually do in education. As a guide for MOOCs, Eichhorn’s question may be too narrow in scope. Tuition is only one of many business models for MOOCs. What are the others? Good question.
I like Boston University’s approach to MOOCs. Jaime Bennis6 quotes professor Robert Pinksy, who teaches The Art of Poetry: “I’ve read that of all the people in the USA registered for post-secondary education, only 20 percent are involved in the four-year, late-teens, full-time model. Trying to understand the other 80 percent, to meet some of their needs, seems worth a try.” No talk of profit from tuition — at least not yet. BU’s enlightened philosophy is apparently a reflection of its IT leaders. Romy Ruukel, associate director of BU’s Digital Learning Initiative, says, “MOOCs are a part of a larger campus-wide effort to encourage and support innovative projects in digital learning. Now is the time to ask bold questions about the value of residential and online learning.” Indeed.
Again, the questions we, as educators, ask are critical. According to Bennis, Andrew West, a BU astronomy professor who teaches Alien Worlds, says that “MOOCs allow students to do work in a way in which they would be unable to in a typical classroom.” The question isn’t How can we make online more like onground? At BU, they’re asking, How can we use the advantages of the latest online technology to improve education? “There are some real advantages,” says West. “Things that we are going to do in the MOOCs are things that you could never do in the traditional class setting.”
To gain a better understanding of MOOCs, we should probably be looking at them from the students’ perspective. Michael Guerriero7, citing a recent study by Coursera, says “that, for many MOOC students, the credential isn’t the goal at all. Students may treat the MOOC as a resource or a text rather than as a course, jumping in to learn new code or view an enticing lecture and back out whenever they want, just as they would while skimming the wider Web.”
MOOCs are expanding the resources for learning at a dizzying pace. In this, the start of the third month of 2014, they’re becoming far more than courses. They’re expanding into the traditional domains of publishing and libraries, conferences and workshops, orientations and presentations, web browsing and research. What’s next? Good question.
1 “UW’s MOOC On Public Speaking Proving to Be Massively Popular,” KPIU, 3/3/14.
2 Information and Communications Technology.
3“Local Firm Brings e-Learning to Africa,” South China Morning Post, 3/3/14.
4 “Khawna Brings Education Outside the Traditional Classrooms,” TechInAsia, 3/3/14.
5 “UCI Evaluating Its Online Class Experiment,” Orange County Register, 3/2/14.
6 “Students Now Able to Register for BU’s 1st Round of MOOCs,” Daily Free Press, 3/2/14.
7 “A MOOC Mystery: Where Do Online Students Go?“, New Yorker, 2/28/14.
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