What’s Wrong with MOOCs: One-Size-Fits-All Syndrome

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

The Malaysian government is taking steps to “make 30 per cent of higher education courses available as massive open online courses (or MOOCs) by 2020” (Financial Review, 2 Oct. 2016). The MOOCs are free, but there’s a fee for assessments that grant credit for courses taken at other universities. From 64 courses in 2015, the number has grown to 300 this year.

The down side, as I see it, is that they’re relying on a single MOOC management system (MMS) — in this case, OpenLearning, which is based in Sydney. This shoehorning of course design and development into a proprietary box is a clear sign that the Malaysian administrators don’t have a clue about MOOCs.

This problem of overreliance on an MMS is endemic in the vast majority of universities that are tiptoeing into MOOCs. It’s the same mindset that tosses all online courses into a single LMS. If this one-size-fits-all approach were applied to F2F courses, professors would be outraged by this brazen violation of academic freedom.

The web is an infinite frontier with limitless resources for creating a wide range of MOOCs. In contrast, boxed platforms being hawked by non- and for-profits such as Coursera, edX, and OpenLearning don’t even begin to scratch the surface of possibilities. Jumping whole hog into one of them is to automatically accept an MMS’s limited views of what a MOOC can be.  Continue reading

International Students and the Need for LMS Orientations

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

You may be familiar with US News & World Report’s (USNWR) best college rankings, a resource that many people use for basic information about universities and colleges in the US. Like many media outlets, USNWR has established a presence on the Internet and features a number of blogs for matters related to education. Among these is one that focuses on education and the international student, the International Student Counsel. This blog is aimed at international students and their parents and provides advice about many aspects of education in the US, such as things to look for when researching universities, choosing a major, passing the TOEFL, and how to pay for college.

A July 7, 2015, post on the International Student Counsel blog, “4 Academic Surprises for New International College Students,” discussed some of the adjustments that international students have to make when attending universities in the US. The first item suggests that students must get familiar with the university’s online system to help manage homework and course material. International students and technology is a topic that I covered on June 10, 2015 (“Technology Advice for First Year International Students in US Colleges“), and again on July 9, 2015 (“Technology Advice for First Year International Students in US Colleges“).

I think the topic of international students in the US is worth revisiting for two reasons. First, the fact that there is a blog devoted to these issues in a major media outlet demonstrates that there is an audience for this type of information. According to a November 17, 2014, post, the Number of International College Students Continues to Climb in the US, and they and their parents have a need to know what kinds of issues may arise. Second, I think this blog is a resource that educators in the US should be aware of. If you haven’t had any international students yet, you probably will at some point.

Many articles about international students focus on what the student needs to do to adjust, but as important is for American educators to think about how they can help make the transition easier for their students. Does the international relations orientation include information about the university’s Learning Management System (LMS) — not just instructions on how to log on but demonstrations on how most professors and students use it? Does the professor assume all the students will know where to find class information or does he or she inform students of the class expectations regarding LMS use?

A few simple steps taken by educators at the beginning of the semester can alert international students to questions that they may need to ask and prevent issues from arising.