MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works

January 4, 2013 at 8:34 am 118 comments

During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace existing higher-education classes if they misunderstand what a teacher does.

MOOCs (for the most part, as they are defined in Udacity, Coursera, and edX, and as defined at Wikipedia) provide lecture-like material (typically through videos). These are broken into small pieces, and are presented with interspersed mini-quizzes. There is additional homework. Feedback is provided, either canned (the system knows what’s right and wrong) or through peer-evaluation. There is typically some kind of forum for questions and answers, and is a key part of the connectivist MOOC for “nurturing and maintaining connections.”

So why isn’t this the same as a face-to-face higher education class?

  • The main activity of a higher-education teacher is not to lecture. The main activity of a teacher is to orchestrate learning opportunities, to get students to do and think. A teacher does this most effectively by responding to the individuals in the class. I just got my student feedback on the prototyping course I taught in the Fall. What the students liked best was that I led discussions based on their questions and comments on the readings, and that I had stories and anecdotes in response to their queries. A teacher responds to the students, provides scaffolding, and helps the students increase their knowledge.
  • A teacher is an expert at teaching the topic, and the teaching is dependent on the domain. Teaching is not a generalized skill. The most effective teachers have a lot of pedagogical content knowledge — they know how to teach the domain. The same general course structure is not as effective as a course structure aimed at the domain.
  • The job of the teacher is to educate, not filter, and that includes motivating students. What’s the difference between a book and a University? You can learn from a book. Most students can’t learn as effectively on-their-own with a book as they can with a good teacher. Many self-taught learners who have only studied books lack a general overview of the field, and haven’t read the books that challenge and contradict the books that they have read and loved. A good teacher motivates students to keep going, explains why the topics are important, challenges students, points out where their understanding is lacking, and makes sure that they see more than one perspective on a topic.

If the only educated people in our society were the ones who wanted to learn (at the start, from the beginning of a class), our society would collapse. We would have too few educated workers to create innovations and maintain the technology we have. Our society depends on teachers who motivate students to persevere and learn.

There is evidence that MOOCs do not teach. We know that MOOCs have a low completion rate. What most people don’t realize is that the majority of those who complete already knew the content. MOOCs offer a one-size-fits-few model, unchanging between content domains, that does not change for individual students (I know that they hope that it will one day, but it doesn’t now), that filters and certifies those who can learn on their own. The role of education in society is to teach everyone, not just those auto-didacts who can learn in a MOOC.

Absolutely, it’s worth exploring how to make educational technology (including MOOCs) that provides learning opportunities where no teacher is available. Alan Kay encouraged us to think that way here in this blog. However, replacing good teachers with MOOCs reflects a deep misunderstanding of what a teacher does.

Please note that I am not arguing that MOOCs are bad technologies, or that they can’t be used to create wonderful learning environments.  I am explicitly critiquing the use of MOOCs as a replacement for existing courses (with a good teacher), not MOOCs as a textbook or augmentation of existing courses.

How did we get to this point, that people are seriously talking about shutting down schools in favor of MOOCs? Maybe it’s because we in Universities haven’t done enough to recognize, value, and publicize good teaching. We haven’t done enough to tell people what we do well. MOOCs do what the external world thinks that University teachers do.

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How many programmers are there? From The Computer Boys Take Over The End of the University as We Know It — One of Two Visions of a MOOC-filled World

118 Comments Add your own

  • 1. J. McGrath Cohoon  |  January 4, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Ooh, what a contrarian! MOOCs and other forms of online learning feel like an accelerating bandwagon. It’s good to read serious questioning of whether this is the right path.

    Reply
  • 2. astrachano  |  January 4, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Mark — you write a couple of things I’d like to comment on:

    First:

    The main activity of a higher-education teacher is not to lecture. The main activity of a teacher is to orchestrate learning opportunities, to get students to do and think. A teacher does this most effectively by responding to the individuals in the class.

    In some venues a lecture-style format can do this. Whether the class is a large 500+ class with peer instruction or an even larger 700+ course that melds straight lecture with questions and in-class student participation (e.g., as at UCSD and Harvard, respectively).

    Second, you also write:

    The job of the teacher is to educate, not filter, and that includes motivating students. What’s the difference between a book and a University? You can learn from a book. Most students can’t learn as effectively on-their-own with a book as they can with a good teacher.
    Many self-taught learners who have only studied books lack a general overview of the field, and haven’t read the books that challenge and contradict the books that they have read and loved. A good teacher motivates students to keep going, explains why the topics are important, challenges students, points out where their understanding is lacking, and makes sure that they see more than one perspective on a topic.

    Why can’t a teacher motivate by video? Especially if the videos are the way that *most* of the students in the course actually get the ‘content’ of the course. As an example, I think for many of the students at Harvard, there’s not much difference between CS50 and CS50X (the edx version) except for how you get help. There’s a huge difference between the help that occurs in-person, in large groups of students sharing the experience in close proximity after hours compared to what students will get in a forum. The CS50 fair is mind-boggling in terms of what it must do to motivate students, ditto the hackathons that are part of the course. These are certainly motivating. But having been to a class at Harvard in person, and seen the CS50x course online, I’d say there’s not a huge difference in terms of the *content*, especially because the online version is how perhaps half the students at Harvard see the material, the class has 700 people enrolled, but I’d guess a third to a half aren’t physically in the classroom on a given day?

    Now there’s a huge difference between students at Harvard and students [fill in the blank?]. I think you’re right that MOOCs won’t work as a replacement for college courses, but as an augmentation? As an assist for those professors who can’t easily do four preps?

    Reply
    • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 9:59 am

      My argument in this post is only with the MOOC-as-replacement claim. I have a post queued for next week on the replacement vs augmentation MOOC stories.

      Reply
    • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Since several of the comments to this post have addressed the issue of MOOC-as-augmentation, I decided to post early the article I mentioned, where I talk about a First Story of MOOCs (augmenting the class) vs a Second Story of MOOCs (replacing the class).

      Reply
    • 5. Gerry  |  February 27, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      My experience of large courses at Harvard doesn’t support the contention that one can successfully incorporate in-class participation into a class with 500-700 students. A few of the very boldest students might benefit, but most would be intimidated, and there wouldn’t be time for most of their comments if they weren’t. I also don’t see Harvard students as a special case.

      Why can’t a teacher motivate by video? No reason, but why can’t a teacher motivate with a book? Is a book a course? If not, why is a lecture series?

      Reply
      • 6. Mark Guzdial  |  February 27, 2013 at 8:48 pm

        Gerry, I recommend looking at Beth Simon’s work at UCSD where she used Peer Instruction in a CS course with over 600 students at once — successfully. Biology and Chemistry Education also has methods for teaching with very large lectures.

        Reply
  • 7. nickfalkner  |  January 4, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Completely agree, Mark, and the last sentence summarises the key problem: the perception of our role is not our role. Very well said, thank you!

    Reply
  • 8. Frank Dellaert  |  January 4, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I think your post explores some of the issues, but does not make a strong argument against MOOCs. I know several people that teach a MOOC and they scaffold, organize, motivate, structure: all the things you say a teacher is supposed to do.

    You could even make an argument that to bring it online, a teacher has to put in *more* thought into the whole process: no more ill-prepared improvising in class after a paper or proposal deadline :-) The additional planning that goes into bringing a course online, and the dissemination in “disembodied Khan-style” video-snippets, might make it *better*, not worse.

    Reply
    • 9. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 10:01 am

      It’s possible, Frank. Current data show MOOCs to be far less effective than a good teacher. Much of what a good teacher does is to respond and engage individuals. It’s hard to do that in a massive setting.

      Reply
      • 10. Greg Wilson  |  January 4, 2013 at 5:08 pm

        But how much difference is there between MOOCs and _average_ teachers? I think the answer is, “Less than we’d like,” which in turn explains why so many people are willing to buy what MOOCs’ advocates are selling.

        Reply
    • 11. Tucker Balch  |  January 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      I have found that I am putting more effort into my MOOC classroom sessions that my traditional sessions. Part of that has to do with the fact that in a traditional classroom I know ahead of time that I’ll be engaged in “conversation” and that the time will be effectively filled in that mode. On the other hand I believe my MOOC lectures are a lot better.

      Reply
      • 12. Mark Guzdial  |  January 6, 2013 at 8:45 am

        But teaching is not equivalent to lecturing. That’s my point. A great lecture is not equivalent to great teaching.

        Reply
        • 13. mgozaydin  |  January 6, 2013 at 5:15 pm

          The online courses and degrees are around for 20 years now by no name and for profits schools at a fee of $ 1,500-3,000 per course and right now they have reached to 7 million students. That is 7/18 = 39 % . That means online degrees from no name schools and for profits schools already replaced traditional HE in the USA 39 % .

          No elite schools of the world are providing online courses at a small fee globally , you claim that these elite universities online programs cannot replace the traditional HE in the USA.

          Even bad onlines already replaced 39 % of the traditional HE.
          Elite universities online programs will replace the traditional HE in the USA as well . It is just fact. Not research no evidence . Just facts .

          Also elite schools will develop better and better onlines every day . They do not need money. Since they attract many students their cost is already NILL. Therefore they charge a small fee. But even that small fee will make the elite schools billioner .

          Reply
  • 14. Edward (@uk_edward)  |  January 4, 2013 at 9:41 am

    The memory I have of my math classes was of teachers writing on the blackboard non stop while 80 students tried to follow and write down every word. Many teachers just lecture (of course they shouldn’t), but in any case, there is no excuse not to have digital material available on advance.

    A good motivator is being able to study on your own, following your interests and moving forward at your own pace. I’d like to see exams disconnected from courses. We have the technology to digitally produce comprehensive random exams to test the knowledge on a subject. Assisting classes, or even enrolling on an university is recommended, but shouldn’t be mandatory.

    Teachers provide guidance, context, and motivation, but students should be the protagonists of their own learning process. I was unfortunate enough to experience the opposite.

    Reply
    • 15. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Ed, I’m sorry that you had bad teachers. There are good teachers, and MOOCs aren’t better than them. Being able to study what you want at your own pace is a motivator for some. Others feel anxious in that setting. See Corno and Snow’s aptitude treatment interaction.

      Reply
      • 16. David Wees  |  January 5, 2013 at 8:36 am

        I had a few very good teachers while in university, and I still reflect back to some of our conversations nearly 20 years later. You only need a few very good teachers to sustain your interest during a degree, IMHO, if you are fundamentally interested in learning already. Unfortunately, I have no idea how common these are. I can count 10 from my undergraduate degree at UBC.

        We need more work on improving interest in continued learning, and I’d love to see research on how successful MOOCs are in that goal.

        It may be that MOOCs are being explored by people as an option for learning, and that in a few years, we will see the tremendous amount of people signing up for them dwindle. In fact, as MOOCs become more numerous, they will end up competing for essentially the same pool of applicants.

        Reply
  • 17. alfredtwo  |  January 4, 2013 at 10:49 am

    How much of the perception problem about a university education comes from faculty who see their main job as research and teaching as something they do in order to “pay for” the research time?
    One hears regularly that there are schools where good teaching doesn’t really help towards tenure because research, publishing and getting grants is what does count to tenure committees. I’ve heard stories (granted this is not real data) from students at R1 schools who have no relationship with faculty at all and don’t expect to have such unless/until graduate school.
    I attended a small liberal arts college for my undergraduate but besides having teachers who knew their stuff also made time to build relationships with students. These faculty were able to do a lot more with students in the area of motivation and guidance than I was likely to get at a huge R1 school (I suspect). After all how well can a professor get to know the 500 students in his large lecture hall?

    Reply
  • 18. Tony Hursh  |  January 4, 2013 at 10:51 am

    “MOOCs do what the external world thinks that University teachers do.”

    In all too many cases, that is exactly what they do. I agree that a book, or a MOOC, is not a substitute for a good teacher. As a substitute for the typical 500-1000 student freshman lecture at Enormous State University? I’m not so sure.

    “We know that MOOCs have a low completion rate.”

    If the student samples a couple of units of instruction and decides that the course is not for him, why is this a bad thing? The student hasn’t invested any money or even very much time.

    Reply
    • 19. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      Tony, it’s not a bad thing for the individual. It’s a bad thing if our society needs people to learn that course/unit, and a student gives up because there was no teacher explaining why it’s important and why it’s a good fit for that student as an individual. A good teacher can help a student see interests and affinities that she might not see for herself.

      Reply
      • 20. Tony Hursh  |  January 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm

        Hmm…. but despite the low completion rate, more students completed MIT’s first iteration of 6.002x than have completed the analogous F2F course in the 40 years it’s been offered. Is that a bad thing for society?

        Reply
        • 21. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm

          And 80% of those who completed had already taken the course before. How much actual learning occurred there? It certainly helps society to have MOOCs for a refresher course. But if it’s only working as a refresher course, and you try to use it to teach people who have never had the material, and you end up with almost none of the students completing, then no, it doesn’t help society much.

          Reply
          • 22. Tony Hursh  |  January 4, 2013 at 1:45 pm

            Okay, if you look at it that way maybe it’s only 8 years of students rather than 40. I’m still not seeing that as bad.

            Reply
            • 23. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 5:33 pm

              You may be right, Tony. If completing 6.002x at MIT means the same (say, students know the same things and can do the same things, starting from the same base level of knowledge) as completing the 6.002x at edX. then you’re right that it’s a win. But there are assumptions in there. (1) MIT doesn’t want students to take classes that cover knowledge that they already know. Did the 6.002x edX students know the content already? (2) Do students learn the same at MIT and in edX? (3) Is completion in edX the same as getting an “A” at MIT? or a “D”?

              There’s just so much that we don’t know about MOOCs. Again, my point is that it’s way too soon to talk about replacing universities, or we may be really making a huge social mistake.

              Reply
          • 24. Bill Burger  |  January 5, 2013 at 11:01 pm

            Repetitious exposure to content might serve to reinforce or enhance the learners’ learning experience. Many university courses require a great deal of reading from their students and I would venture that much of the content is ‘lost’ due to the weighty volume of those reading assignments. Having an opportunity to be re-exposed to the content in a MOOC might assist in the transfer and retention of knowledge. A second look may also provide valuable time for reflection that might not have been available in a traditional class setting.

            Reply
  • 25. David  |  January 4, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Mark, I agree with much of what you say but think you overstate the case. As we’ve discussed before, current MOOCs are basically modern versions of textbooks, with content presentation and exercises. And I think some of your claims unfairly disparage textbooks, and thus MOOCs as well.

    You accuse MOOCs/textbooks of being “unchanging between content domans.” But history textbooks are nothing like CS textbooks, and the same can be true of MOOCs.

    You also assert the value of domain-specific pedagogical content knowledge, and experise at teaching the topic. No disagreement there, but such knowledge DOES work its way into any textbook/MOOC: it’s what the teacher uses to decide how to organize and present their content there!

    You complain that a self-taught learner is missing an overview, and hasn’t read the material that challenges the books they learned from. But is that fundamental to textbooks/MOOCs? A well written textbook should provide the appropriate overview, and should offer the contrary opinions and alternative perspectives missing from other books.

    Even when it comes to interaction, I think there is long-term hope for MOOCs to go far beyond textbooks. You point out the importance of having someone who can answer questions and challenge students. I agree on the importance of this. As we’ve already seen in, for example, Eric Mazur’s peer instruction model, those questioners/challengers can be other students. Similarly, Scott Klemmer has shown that given careful work on rubrics, students do an excellent job grading each others’ work, even in a design class with very fuzzy-seeming metrics.

    Even when it comes to motivation, I think that MOOCs can go far. I think of some of the giant courses my classmates took at Harvard, from superstar names like Rawls, Sandel, and MacFarquhar. With the hundreds of students in the class, you know that most of these students got absolutely zero personal interaction with the professor (though I recall, with some amazement, that MacFarquhar required every one of his 400 students to meet with him one on one for 15 minutes). But there’s something in humans that makes them thrill to be in the same room as the superstar. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to generate that thrill in a recorded lecture. But as our communication technology gets better, I do think it will be possible to create that “same room” thrill in an online setting. Ironically this may require abolishing the most common characteristic of MOOCs—the recorded video lectures—and replacing them with live lectures. But with modern tech a live lecture to a 100,000 students is really no different from a live lecture to 400.

    Reply
    • 26. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      David, if you think of MOOCs as textbooks, as replacements for lecture, as a way of making courses better, then we are mostly in agreement. That’s a First Story way of thinking about MOOCs. That’s not what I’m arguing about here.

      I’m arguing about the Second Story, MOOCs as replacements for courses. I don’t think you’d disagree that a textbook plus a good teacher is better than a textbook alone or better than a MOOC.

      A well-written textbook can provide alternative points of view (though probably doesn’t present well views that the author disagrees with), and is based on pedagogical content knowledge — agreed. A teacher can provide more perspectives, and can use PCK in dynamic ways that can’t be built into a static textbook or MOOC. There absolutely is a long-term hope for MOOCs to be better than textbooks, and I’m eager to see that happen. But UNTIL that happens, MOOCs should not replace existing classes with good teachers. You have to see Beth Simon live lecture to 900 to see how that can be much better than a MOOC.

      Reply
    • 27. Bill Burger  |  January 5, 2013 at 11:27 pm

      David.

      With MOOCS – and courses in general – I think it all comes down to effective course design. Literature points to the value of students being connected to their educators and their peers. Learners like to be perceived as being connected, socially present, and as part of a community. So I believe MOOCs can be teamed up with current technology to facilitate opportunities where students can meet their social needs. Doing so may lead to a more positive learning experience and potentially increase course retention numbers as well as increase knowledge retention. Based on the historical, personal, financial, local technological infrastructure, political, and cultural needs of the individual learner, the appropriate technology solution may vary (Cultural Historical Activity Theory). But there are a range of technologies that are available today that can successfully meet social needs and thoughtful course design (systems-based approach) can go a long way in serving the needs of both learners and educator(s).

      Reply
  • 28. rdm  |  January 4, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Note that this reasoning also suggests that there’s a significant educational role for educators who are not teachers. We already use this model in grad school where we are expecting students to do original work, but there’s no reason I can see why a variation on this model could not also be used when studying a well trodden path.

    And, if an educator did not have to invest in the burdens of teaching, we might get a better educational return per student per invested educator hour.

    I do not think this would scale as large as a classic MOOC but if it produces clearly superior results it might not have to, to compete successfully with MOOCs.

    That said, “completion rate” is also a fundamental mispreception of what students do. One of the significant advantages of MOOCs over regular college courses, for some people, is that they can be consumed on the student’s schedule. This allows professionals to attend them when they could not attend a class. And if it takes a number of attempts to achieve sufficient mastery of the material, that might be fine within the priority framework of that particular student.

    Reply
  • 29. al rowberry  |  January 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    It’s important to remember that MOOCs are in their infancy and will improve radically over the next few years. Your arguments may still have some merit at the K-12 levels where additional supervision may be important. However in regards to higher education who is going to pay for your arguably superior teaching methods?

    I am currently paying almost $300 per credit hour in my degree program. In spite of the incredible price I pay, the best professors seem to be too busy publishing and the classes are often led by their TAs. The cost of education continues to spiral out of control at about 2.5 times the rate of inflation. Government aid is needed by about two thirds of students and that need is increasing as the education price tag goes up. The fiscal cliff makes one wonder how long the government can continue to give increasing student aid. Additionally, school administration continues to suck away a larger piece of the pie with every new year.

    I just completed a MOOC in Statistics that had an enrollment of 120,000 students. The MOOC will allow us in the future to deliver quality education at about $5 to $10 per class thus enriching the best teachers and instructional designers beyond our current imagination, whilst opening the higher educational opportunity to even the most financially challenged situation.

    Reply
    • 30. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      Al, you’re making a Second Story argument, and I do get it. Higher education is expensive. However, replacing existing courses with MOOCs is going to decrease quality compared to having good teachers. Can our society afford that?

      Reply
      • 31. David  |  January 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

        Interesting conundrum. Suppose we have to make a choice between educating few people at high quality versus educating many at low quality. Which should we do?

        In fact, I suspect we’ll get both. There will always be an elite willing to pay more for that higher quality.

        Reply
        • 32. Bill Burger  |  January 6, 2013 at 12:30 am

          Mark and David.

          I would agree, there will always be people who can afford to pay for higher-priced educational opportunities. I would also suggest that as long as there is a middle class, there will be other options. Whether the lower-priced options can compete with their more expensive cousins is an intriguing question. Do today’s community college courses compete with similar courses offered at state universities or private institutions? This is another complex question that is dependent on numerous influences, including the quality/devotion of the student.

          I would add one more branch of thought to this thread… MOOCs require computers with internet connectivity. There are still many corners of the world that are not connected, nor can they afford the technology necessary to participate in a MOOC. Some political structures prohibit participation of their citizens on such sites. There is also the digital knowledge gap. So for these people – the digital have-nots – the divide continues to widen. Ironic – MOOCS can be an affordable way to provide education to folks by tearing down various boundaries. There are plenty of boundaries that need to be negotiated. Then we also need to consider language/cultural barriers. An entirely separate can of educational worms to negotiate :-)

          Reply
  • 33. Guy Friedman  |  January 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Good post pointing out some holes in the current MOOC system, but dosn’t a professor typically get compensated for his research vs. teaching. So the system relies on self-motivated researchers to put the time and energy to teach (which many do).

    Dosn’t the MOOC system flip the script and give more recognition to better teachers and lecturers vs. research?

    Reply
    • 34. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Guy, I think it depends if we’re thinking as MOOCs-as-augmentation or MOOCs-as-replacement. If the latter, then there’s no teacher to recognize.

      Reply
      • 35. Guy Friedman  |  January 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm

        Sure – but my core question is about your main argument: “I am explicitly critiquing the use of MOOCs as a replacement for existing courses (with a good teacher), not MOOCs as a textbook or augmentation of existing courses.”

        Are there enough “good teachers” in higher ed to outweigh taking a rock-star professor in a MOOC -style course? Is your point too obvious and ignoring that many professors care about research vs teaching (rightly so, that’s what’s paying for dinner)?

        Basically, is an AVERAGE professor better or worse than a MOOC?

        Reply
  • [...] See on computinged.wordpress.com [...]

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  • 38. Franklin  |  January 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I think the big deal about MOOCs is not whether they have anything to do with “replacing” teachers or schools. From my perspective (as having participated in many MOOCs and knowing others who have done so), the big deal is that MOOCs for a lot of people replace “nothing”. That is, people who otherwise would be doing “nothing” (not being enrolled in a school, and not having a face-to-face instructor, and not reading a book) are doing “something” instead. That is huge. It’s like, the Web did not “replace” TV or books, and is not truly in competition with them.

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    • 39. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      I agree, Franklin! MOOCs are way better than having nothing. But read this post about replacing half of all Universities with MOOCs. Do we get better overall education by having fewer universities, removing the good teachers we have, and replacing them with MOOCs?

      Reply
      • 40. mgozaydin  |  January 6, 2013 at 1:49 am

        Good universities and colleges will remain We need good teachers as well.
        Do not forget there are 4,200 HE schools in the USA. Half is none sense . If MOOC replaces only 2,100 HE schools then that means 9 million students . That is more than enough for time being . Already 7 million online students are replaced by for profits online schools during the last 20 years . Nothing happened yet .
        Let another 9 million students replace the traditional education .

        Reply
  • 41. Baker Franke  |  January 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    These arguments to me have the same structure as the arguments we CS teachers have been making (pleading) to schools regarding tech ed./integration vs. computer science.

    The latter views the former as a shallow understanding what the very nature of the field is, while the former views the latter as at best naive, or at worst unnecessary.

    As CS people, we like to say “just because it’s on a computer doesn’t make it computer science.” As educators we want to say: “just because it’s a course on a computer doesn’t make it education.”

    Isn’t this the same argument? Does anyone else see the parallels?

    Reply
    • 42. Mark Guzdial  |  January 4, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      I don’t yet, Baker — sorry. Can you explain the analogy a bit more for me?

      Reply
      • 43. Baker  |  January 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm

        I’m not sure what I mean exactly, other than this deja vu feeling with arguments I hear about MOOCs.

        I want to argue that, people who view MOOCs-as-replacement misunderstand what education or teaching actually is and risk leaving our students largely uneducated as a result….

        …in the same way that I argue, that people who view technology integration as computing education (a battle I fight daily as a teacher) misunderstand what computing or computer science actually is and risk leaving our students largely uneducated as a result.

        Reply
  • 45. slidespeech  |  January 4, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Consider an analogy with transportation. Learning is like going from place A to place B. Universities are like train stations and courses are like trains. MOOCs are still “courses” and so they are also a form of mass transit. The future is cars: “self-directed” learning experiences which help a learner reach their desired learning destination, on demand, at a price related to the distance traveled (not some train-ticket-like cost per credit hour). These “free range learners” will have maps and GPS to reveal the big picture and guide them turn-by-turn. As with the infrastructure change from railroad tracks to motorways, this change in the modality of learning will be huge and driven by human nature and economics.

    The quality of university teachers effectively won’t matter if consumers find their learning needs met conveniently and cheaply on-line, using systems built by instructional designers (highway engineers). MOOCs suggest this possibility; meanwhile construction of various personalized car-like replacement systems is just getting started. You cannot expect these new offerings to be better than the existing system for some time. For now, they are just much, much cheaper. If there were brilliant train conductors, we don’t miss them. The job train conductors did is now largely obsolete. People get from A to B a different way. A similar change is likely in higher education, eventually.

    On roads today, we suffer from bad drivers. This suggests helping K-12 students adjust to a more self-directed learning style may be important.

    Reply
    • 46. Baker  |  January 4, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      Is learning like going from place A to place B? I’m not sure that’s true. If we’re talking about “good” education, and “good” teaching…how many people do you know say of their favorite or most inspirational teacher, boy I really wanted to know X and this teacher really got me there? Education (especially) at a younger age is not so utilitarian a proposition.

      And so GPS is only helpful if you know where you’re trying to get to. I think Mark’s point about good teachers is that a good teacher might know how to get you to point B, even if you don’t. And that relationship does not scale.

      Maybe we’re talking apples and oranges. To be a self-directed learner it seems to me you have to know what you want to learn. If you argue that the point of K-12 education is to develop more self-directed learners, I don’t think that goal is any different than the goal of many K-12 schools right now, whose mission is more less based on the Dewey-an proposition of preparing citizens to live in a democratic society and think for themselves.

      Reply
      • 47. Baker  |  January 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm

        sorry…meant to say: “a good teacher might know how to get you to point B, even if you don’t, or never even realized that’s where you wanted/needed to go in the first place.”

        Reply
  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace existing higher-education … WordPress Hosting 2013 MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works … WordPress Hosting 2013 During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace existing higher-education … WordPress Hosting 2013 MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works … [...]

    Reply
  • 49. Is MOOC reflecting how people learn? | Learner Weblog  |  January 5, 2013 at 2:17 am

    [...] this post moocs-are-a-fundamental-misperception-of-how-learning-works, Mark Guzdial [...]

    Reply
  • 50. Doug Holton  |  January 5, 2013 at 10:18 am

    There is a logical fallacy going on in the comments (I don’t know the name of it). Yes, Mark didn’t mention or account for the fact that most or many face to face classes are lecture-driven and not that effective, either. That doesn’t invalidate Mark’s criticisms of MOOCs. If newer option A is an alternative to the older B option, and B sucks or we are well aware of its flaws, that doesn’t mean that A doesn’t have serious flaws, too (political elections come to mind). Option A just ‘appears’ better because it looks like what we think good courses might look like (cargo cult teaching) without understanding how learning really works – see the book How People Learn: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9853

    It does speak to the larger issue though – that most faculty are not trained in how to teach effectively, and most people in general have a lack of understanding of how people learn and how hard it really is to teach and design effective learning experiences. See a wealth of references and evidence for the former here:

    http://edtechdev.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/50-examples-of-the-need-to-improve-college-teaching/

    See my own critique of MOOCs here:

    http://edtechdev.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/whats-the-problem-with-moocs/

    Did you know for example that not a single educational specialist (like a learning scientist or learning designer or educational psychologist) has been hired by any of the major MOOC providers?

    Reply
  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace …  [...]

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  • [...] See on computinged.wordpress.com [...]

    Reply
  • 53. Mark Guzdial  |  January 5, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Really interesting piece by Ian Bogost in response to this post, arguing that MOOCs aren’t about education at all, but about increasing value for investors: http://www.bogost.com/blog/educational_hucksterism.shtml

    Reply
  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace …  [...]

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  • 55. Diana Laurillard  |  January 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    The argument against MOOCs as replacement is essentially arithmetic. They can only be free if the teaching cost is fixed, whatever the student numbers. This is true for the MOOC as ‘videoed lectures plus peer-based discussions and assessment’. The video lecture can be a by-product of an existing lecture and the orchestration of peer contributions can be set up once and left to run. So the per-student cost is negligible.

    But students need guidance and teacher feedback if they are to achieve their learning potential, and however little that is – maybe only one hour per student – when student numbers reach 10,000, that’s 10,000 teacher hours, or 4 teacher-years (- teachers work very long hours). That won’t be free.

    And sure enough, as soon as you ask about student support, MOOCs start charging. Daphne Koller (Coursera) had 4 ways of getting round this: charge student fees for support, charge employers for use, charge other institutions for use, teachers work for nothing. I’m not making this up. So they do not solve the problem of scaling up education.

    As a supplement, fine. As a form of higher education, no. We need much smarter ways to meet the worldwide demand for higher education.

    At least MOOCs are focusing minds and generating the kind of thought that has gone into this original blog and its comments!

    Reply
    • 56. Tiffany Barnes  |  January 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm

      Great post and interesting discussion. One point I think we all miss is that the typical university is not what is most affected by this thinking that moocs are a replacement- it’s community colleges and other local and regional options. If state and local governments believe that these local options are redundant and unnecessary they will stop funding them. And then the students that needed the most hands on help with a teacher who is paid for teaching and not research/grants will be the ones expected to suddenly become self-directed learners. If they already were then they would likely be going to 4-year universities. So before we argue that moocs can be done well we should be careful to realize that it will cost money for the help students need but by the time politicians realize its needed they will have cut the funding because moocs are “free”. While my research focuses on making intelligent data-driven adaptation to individual students and I use a lot of peer support in my classes, I know we are a long way from doing these well on a large scale

      Reply
      • 57. mgozaydin  |  January 6, 2013 at 1:54 am

        MOOCs are not free either.
        It is free now for promotion. Can’t you see that . They declared they will charge later . Udacity already charges $ 100 per exam through Pearson . Is it free ?

        Reply
  • [...] the fundamental nature of teaching and learning (for more on this, see Mark Guzdial’s excellent blog).  My colleague is right that they can have a lot of FAQs and answer most questions—but is that [...]

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  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace …  [...]

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  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace …  [...]

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  • [...] colleague Mark Guzdial argues that MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how learning works. In the post, Mark argues that MOOCs misconstrue educational practice, mistaking lectures and [...]

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  • 62. Mike Scharnreitner (@scharnreitner)  |  January 6, 2013 at 4:22 am

    Is the difference about (missing) teachers? Or is it about (missing) peers?
    I’m trying to learn Italian for a couple of years, using CD-ROMs and so on. It doesn’t work. But not because the material is bad. I miss the social preassure, exchange and so forth.

    Reply
  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace …  [...]

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  • 64. Ryan  |  January 6, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Provocative post and terrific discussion. It clearly illustrates how passionate people are about the subject, and how much debate there will be as technology and behaviors evolve in the educational world.

    A few comments:

    1) In your responses in the comments, you indicate that this post was simply arguing against MOOCs-as-replacement for college courses. Unfortunately, your title reflects a much broader and deeper criticism of MOOCs, essentially stating (or implying) that they can’t provide education.

    2) Your points surrounding the role of a teacher seem to be missing one incredibly important qualifier: GOOD. Good teachers do the things that you describe. Unfortunately, a lot of teachers are mediocre or bad, especially at larger institutions, because these teachers (particularly in the sciences) are not compensated based on how well they teach. Teaching requires dedication, focus and effort, and there’s no reason distance learning can’t manifest those things provided the teacher is good (as some of your commenters note).

    3) A MOOC is not a monolithic collection of video lectures. If you’re going to criticize MOOCs, you need to include discussion of forums, assessment, and teacher interaction, and whether those things can serve as a reasonably proxy for face-to-face educational experiences in some cases.

    4) Not all domains of knowledge are created equal, and MOOCs should not be judged with a broad brush that assumes they are either useful or harmful as a whole.

    5) MOOCs are still SO new. People are rushing to judgment as everyone is trying to figure out how they fit into an educational experience, what they should be, and the purpose they serve. I know it would be impossible to qualify every statement about MOOCs with “as they stand today,” but it might be useful to provide that caveat more forcefully.

    6) There is an underlying assumption behind your post, which is that people have a uniform definition for what they mean by education. I think this is far from the truth, and represents a dangerous assumption when having discussions of this type. Without a clearly defined reference point, it’s hard to know if everyone is arguing about the same thing or not.

    I look forward to seeing more posts, discussions, and to seeing how things evolve in the world of MOOCs.

    Reply
    • 65. Mark Guzdial  |  January 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      Ryan, all those other issues about MOOCs have been addressed in some of my other posts, like the one on open research questions about MOOCs. The issue of the distribution of good teachers has been raised in this thread previously — it’s an open empirical question. But here’s another open question: How BAD does a teacher have to be such that a MOOC is better?

      Reply
      • 66. astrachano  |  January 6, 2013 at 4:38 pm

        I’d say not that bad. A MOOC is free, if you’re paying for your education it’s hard to tolerate badness the same way. I understand you’re talking about teaching and learning, but that’s not the only way to measure things?

        Reply
        • 67. Mark Guzdial  |  January 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm

          Absolutely agreed. I’m talking about teaching and learning here. If we are going to focus on access and cost, then my points aren’t all that useful. On the other hand, if we’re not talking about leaning, then what’s the point of school at all? Credentialing without learning isn’t sustainable. Eventually, those accepting the credentials will figure out that they’re worthless.

          Reply
          • 68. Ryan  |  January 6, 2013 at 11:40 pm

            For many people, access and cost preclude learning. In other words, if you can’t access learning resources by virtue of their cost, you don’t learn. MOOCs and other online learning resources (like the Khan Academy, which is not exactly a MOOC) circumvent this problem, so there is at least the potential for learning.

            Look…I was an academic. I love teaching. Teachers are an incredibly valuable resource. But MOOCs are a delivery mechanism for information and interaction, albeit digitally. They don’t replace teachers. You still need great teachers BEHIND MOOCs to make them worthwhile.

            In my opinion, a great teacher can do all the great things they do whether or not they are face-to-face with their students, provided there is a mechanism for interaction, and for transmitting that information effectively.

            Reply
  • 69. mgozaydin  |  January 6, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    ONLINE is in this country for the last 20 years from no name and for profits school. They have 7 million students. That means they have replaced 7/18 = 39 % of the HE in the USA already .

    Now elite schools online programs definitely will replace the traditional HE in the USA.

    It is a fact . Not an evidence or research .

    Reply
  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace …  [...]

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  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace …  [...]

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  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace …  [...]

    Reply
  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace …  [...]

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  • 74. Motivation | Schooled for Life  |  January 7, 2013 at 3:04 am

    [...] MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works [...]

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  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace existing higher-education …  [...]

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  • 76. abeglover  |  January 7, 2013 at 6:23 am

    Really good point of view, MooCs are something which I have been looking into for the current institution that I work for. Some of your views help balance the idea of how useful MooCs are in teaching.

    I personally believe there are very useful but more as tool for access for possible students who are unsure. High quality free content or a showcase of the what the learning experience could be like can be enough to convert them.

    Also they can prove to be a great way for mature students who want to an academic certificate for something that they have been doing in practice for years.

    Reply
  • 77. Peter Norvig  |  January 7, 2013 at 7:45 am

    McGrath, I think Mark is being mainstream here, not contrarian — at least in comparison to the voices I’ve been in touch with. Mark, I agree with almost everything you say. In my talks, my four main points are: (1) mastery learning with 1-1 tutoring is best (2) there is a path to individualized online instruction that achieves that, but we aren’t there (or close) yet, (3) motivation, not information is the key, (4) Simon’s quote that learning is what students do, not teachers. I would say that a MOOC is less effective at motivation than a good teacher, but a good MOOC is much better than a book, a bad teacher, or nothing. I would like to see studies of effectiveness — so far I don’t know of any serious study — what have you seen? I don’t think citing completion rates is helpful. My AI MOOC had about 15% completion rate against signups; about double that against people who earnestly started. This is a lot lower than 100%, but a lot more than Stanford Univesity in the sense that they reject 90% of applicants, so in that sense no Stanford course has more than 10% “completion” rate. What rate do you want to judge? I think rate is less important than sum total of impact.

    Reply
    • 78. Seb Schmoller  |  January 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      Today I took part in a discussion with a funder about how to tackle the backlog of, in the UK (and estimates vary), between 4 and 17 million adults with inadequate competency in maths. Just for the sake of argument, let’s settle on 10 million. Let’s also say that we want to help all these 10 million people learn maths over a 5 year period. It may be that running face-to-face courses for them taught by good teachers would give them the best chance of success. But if you cost this (say 2 million learners a year in groups of 10 doing a 100 taught hour course – that’s 20 million tutor hours per year, which equates to about 20 thousand new maths tutors, costing, say, UKP 0.75 billion per year, if you could get them). The practicalities and economics of this are very challenging indeed.

      I agree with Peter Norvig that a good MOOC is much better than a book, a bad teacher, or nothing; and for this reason I think that Mark Guzdial’s underlying line in MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works misses – or more importantly will encourage others to miss or wilfully ignore – that MOOCs can provide a means of enabling learners who have no other realistic options to do some “pretty good learning”. And if the choice is between PGL and no or very little learning I know which side of the fence I – and I dare say most readers of this blog – sit.

      Mark kindly links elsewhere to something I wrote a couple of days ago referencing Herb Simon’s “Learning results from what the student does and thinks, and only from what the student does and thinks. The teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn.” I believe that learning in a (good) MOOC can beneficially influence “what the student does to learn”. The development and research challenge – and the CS discipline must play a big part in this – is surely now to wrestle with the how.

      Reply
      • 79. Mark Guzdial  |  January 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm

        Seb, I agree that MOOCs might be leading to “pretty good learning.” Peter Norvig’s note asks the right question: Has anyone done any study of effectiveness in a MOOC? What learning (average normalized gain, as in Hake’s study of learner engagement methods, so that we deal with the possibility that the MOOC students already know the content) is happening in a MOOC? We don’t know yet. Until we know that, it’s rash to plan on removing universities in favor of MOOCs. There may not be an option to rebuild them once we destroy them. What if “pretty good learning” turns out to be “no learning at all”? I’m reminded of the slogan: “Think Education is Expensive? Try Ignorance!”

        Reply
        • 80. rdm  |  January 7, 2013 at 4:32 pm

          Wait a minute… I do not think anyone is “planning on removing universities in favor of MOOCs”.

          I think that there are some fears that MOOCs may eventually harm university economics by undercutting existing institutions in the context of low-end education, but that’s not at all the same kind of thing. And that spectre is probably mostly a risk for inefficient universities (using an economic definition of “efficiency”) and even then it should only be significant when the troubled institutions are simultaneously facing some other economic crisis or crises.

          Of course there’s also the possibility of incorporating MOOC content in the programs offered by traditional institutions, and that is going to be irregular and fitful, based on the individual people involved. But people can afford to deliver MOOCs now, while MOOCs would have been impractical or impossible in previous decades. So it should not be surprising that they exist and that people are trying them and that we do not have a lot of experience in dealing with them…

          Reply
        • 81. Seb Schmoller  |  January 7, 2013 at 4:55 pm

          Mark. Exactly right. We seem to be beset by unfounded or partially founded claims on all sides of the argument, which is not either/or in any case. In the UK I know of efforts to get some proper research council money pulled in to fund detailed work. But (without myself having the right grasp of the research methods needed) I could imagine – almost as a temporary expedient – a lightweight protocol which could be used within the MOOC world to get normalised gain (or lack of it) examined. As an aside, and reflecting unscientifically on the AI course, I certainly gained having come to nearly all the content completely cold (I was probably just into the bottom of the third quartile of the completers……) I’m not suggesting here that the individual views of one completer mean anything at all; but I definitely bridle at the suggestion that the only people who learned much already know the stuff. Separately, the impression I got is that being motivated and having learned how to learn counted for a lot.

          Reply
  • [...] agree with the post below which suggests that MOOCs misunderstand what a good teacher does–that’s what my post earlier was about.  I’m not convinced that I agree with the author’s definition of what a teacher does. [...]

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  • 83. Ed Garay (@garay)  |  January 7, 2013 at 10:13 am

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article. Year after year, the primary feedback from our online students is that they really (really) appreciate the connectedness of the class, how we (the instructors) nurture the discussion forums and blogs, all the active learning and collaborative learning opportunities that we facilitate, and in general, how students like our educational content, the meaningful and engaging class communication and student activities, and the overall class community build and nurtured around the course.

    This takes time, a lot of quality time from the faculty and teaching staff, and it is precisely this personal attention and human touch what is most challenging to replicate on a massive online course.

    As the post says, MOOCs are not bad technology, this, mind you, coming from an Academic Technologist, first, and an Online Instructor, second. Like many, I agree that there is a lot of good applications and practical needs for MOOCs; no question about that. I am just one of the few, I guess, who thinks that MOOCs replacing entire courses, degree programs and universities is flawed in that it oversimplifies all that it really takes to facilitate quality Teaching & Learning, and to effectively enhance Education.

    Reply
  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace …  [...]

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  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace …  [...]

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  • [...] MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works [...]

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  • 87. Ed Garay (@garay)  |  January 7, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    End of the university as we know it, according to sensationalistic articles like this one from Harden: http://the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=1352

    Reply
    • 88. rdm  |  January 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Yes… not only is that article rather sensational, its predictions are set fifty years in the future (which makes it analogous to science fiction).

      But also, it identifies the deciding issue as “information available via the internet” and then says that MOOCs will be the cause. But if key the issue was really “information available via the internet” I think that search engines would be a more likely candidate than MOOCs.

      Anyways, many of us will not be able to distinguish how true this article turns out to be (and most of the rest probably won’t care, by then). I’m not sure how much of a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong treatment it deserves, but I do feel that the article exhibits way too much “confidence” about how history will unfold..

      Reply
  • [...] During break (e.g., multi-hour long car rides), I gave a lot of thought to MOOCs and the changes that are coming to higher education. I realized that people can only believe that MOOCs can replace existing higher-education classes if they misunderstand what a teacher does.  [...]

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  • [...] Are MOOCs far less effective than a good teacher? [...]

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  • [...] idea of the MOOC has been criticised by several educationalists. Professor Mark Guzdial, who in his blog post makes some very good points about the dangers of MOOCs replacing good face to face teaching in [...]

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  • 92. Network-based Education | Sustainable Engineering Systems  |  January 9, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    [...] MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works (computinged.wordpress.com) [...]

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  • 93. Angel Hernandez  |  January 10, 2013 at 9:28 am

    I remember hearing from professors, after fears of being replaced, “If you feel that a video tape will replace you, then maybe it should.”

    Reply
  • [...] arguing that MOOCs fundamentally misperceive how teaching works Mark Guzdial suggests that “the main activity of a teach is to orchestrate learning [...]

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  • [...] the hype doesn’t seem to be subsiding, although slowly others are starting to criticise them. This, this and this are recent examples and I’m sure there are many [...]

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  • [...] linked this hucksterism to the new higher education business hucksters. His piece, and the one he links to by Mark Guzdial, are interesting. But their pieces are interesting as much for what they include as [...]

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  • 97. Tejas Bubane  |  January 17, 2013 at 4:50 am

    *replacing good teachers with MOOCs reflects a deep misunderstanding of what a teacher does*
    Seems that the writer himself has some misuderstanding.
    If teachers are good, we are aiding our learning process with stuff from other good teachers. Nothing wrong in that I suppose.
    If teachers a bad, they should be replaced.

    Reply
  • [...] Titus Brown posted an excellent commentary on MOOCs in Twitter, and quoted this line [...]

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  • [...] Mark Guzdial’s “MOOC are a fundamental misperception…” got me thinking about what happens at a university. I’m not a researcher of computing [...]

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  • 100. Christopher Kirk  |  January 22, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I am retired and looking for an educational experience to stave off decrepitude. I was a teacher and ‘enjoyed’ a traditional degree course and an Open University one as well as attending evening classes and even teaching myself. I am doing, at the moment, three mooc courses and I am doing them for fun! I have been inspired in formal settings and bored to tears. Like many people I was not looking for a college replacement but a chance to get my toes wet. The lectures I have seen are by people who put their lectures on display and are braver than many of the hacks I have met. I don’t want to be motivated, I’m a grown up, but I wouldn’t mind being inspired. I am studying at two American Universities and one Scottish one whilst living in Spain. Education without travel seems quite green to me and I intend to continue.

    Reply
  • [...] MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works (computinged.wordpress.com) [...]

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  • [...] People, including university administrators, will still fail to realize what a small percentage of people actually complete these courses or why this is a flawed model in the first place. [...]

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  • 103. dennisfrailey  |  February 5, 2013 at 8:01 am

    I would put it differently. MOOCs are effective for people who want to learn. Other methods may be better for people who have to be motivated to learn. I’ve used distance education with graduate students for 40 years, and quite successfully. With undergraduates there are more problems due to that motivation factor. But consider this: students in many parts of the world are motivated to learn as young as grammar school, but in the US we often still have to hold their hands in college. What does this say about our culture and society?

    Reply
  • [...] the MOOC-model misunderstands how learning works. Often times, the “massive” forms of online “learning” rely heavily on lecture-delivery as [...]

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  • [...] the MOOC-model misunderstands how learning works. Often times, the “massive” forms of online “learning” rely heavily on lecture-delivery as [...]

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  • 106. De enorme aandacht voor MOOC's - Blog - Wilfred Rubens  |  February 27, 2013 at 4:24 am

    [...] hebben op het didactisch concept van MOOC’s. Hoogleraar Mark Guzdial spreekt zelfs van een fundamentele misconceptie van onderwijs. De belangrijkste taak van een docent is volgens hem namelijk niet het verzorgen van lezingen. [...]

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  • 107. Dennis Frailey  |  February 27, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    It seems so obvious to me that MOOCs have a role to play in making affordable education available to those who are motivated to learn but will not replace other forms of education for those lacking such motivation. Having taught in major universities via distance education (in a mooc-like fashion) for over 40 years, I can attest to the value of this format for many students – and many of those simply cannot avail themselves of more conventional education methods due to family or job constraints.

    Reply
  • [...] gets it.  The quote below reflects my concerns about replacing courses with MOOCs. I particularly enjoyed the reference to the proposed “New University of California” [...]

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  • 109. Some Interesting Reading | Teaching Software Carpentry  |  April 6, 2013 at 8:20 am

    [...] MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works [...]

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  • […] post does a nice job of making an argument similar to mine — MOOCs don’t utilize what we know works best in teaching.  Hake goes on to point out, […]

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  • […] * MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works. No! Gasp! […]

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  • 112. The Spectrum of Opinion About MOOCs | EdTechDev  |  November 15, 2013 at 9:21 am

    […] MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works – Mark Guzdial […]

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  • […] not been embraced by the majority of educators. In fact, MOOCs are seen as an experiment rife with poorly executed pedagogies, troubling colonial overtures, and corporate origins that threaten to prey upon traditional […]

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  • 114. Hybrid Pedagogy | Will MOOCs Work for Writing?  |  January 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

    […] common reactions dominate the current discussion: 1) fear and loathing that MOOCs will disrupt and devalue the current education system 2) growing excitement over the spreading […]

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  • […] MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works (computinged.wordpress.com) […]

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  • […] MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works (computinged.wordpress.com) […]

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  • […] post by an important CS researcher in programming languages and software engineering, but with a deep misperception about teaching.  Teaching is not presentation.  Making “production” better doesn’t make the […]

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  • 118. ceceperks  |  April 12, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    As a college graduate of UCSD, and a MOOC student, I have to say that MOOCs are going to be only as good as the student wants them to be. I whole-heartedly disagree that a professor’s job is to engage and motivate…that is the students job. You are there for a reason, if you are not engaged or motivated, you need to think about whether you should be there.

    I am currently in a class and have met “pen pals” from around the world. We share a common reason for being in the class, and a common career path. We talk to each other and talk about context of the subject matter in our lives. I also communicate with the professor to ask questions and clarification.

    In the end it is up to the individual to make the class that they want to be in. It really is no different from the online college classes that I took at my classic university.

    Reply

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