Posts tagged ‘MOOCopalypse’
The below-linked article by Jill Lepore is remarkable for its careful dissection of Christensen’s theory of “disruptive innovation.” (Thanks to Shriram Krishnamurthi for the link.) As Lepore points out, Christensen’s theories were referenced often by those promoting MOOCs. I know I was told many times (vehemently, ferociously) that my emphasis on learning, retention, diversity was old-fashioned, and that disrupting the university was important for its own sake, for the sake of innovation. As Lepore says in the quote below, there may be good arguments for MOOCs, but Christensen’s argument from a historical perspective just doesn’t work. (Ian Bogost shared this other critical analysis of Christensen’s theory.)
I just finished reading Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, and I see similarities between how Lepore describes reactions to Christensen’s theory of “disruptive innovation” and how Lewis describes the market around synthetic subprime mortgage bond-backed financial instruments. There’s a lot of groupthink going on (and the Wikipedia description is worth reading), with the party line saying, “This is all so great! This is a great way to get rich! We can’t imagine being wrong!” What Lewis points out (most often through the words of Dr. Michael Burry) is that markets work when there is a logic to them and real value underneath. Building financial instruments on top of loans that would never be repaid is ludicrous — it’s literally value-less. Lepore is saying something similar — innovation for its own sake is not necessarily valuable or a path to success, and companies that don’t disruptively innovate can still be valuable and successful.
I don’t know enough to critique either Lewis or Lepore, but I do see how the lesson of value over groupthink applies to higher-education. Moving education onto MOOCs just to be disruptive isn’t valuable. We can choose what value proposition for education we want to promote. If we’re choosing that we want to value reaching students who don’t normally get access higher education, that’s a reasonable goal — but if we’re not reaching that goal via MOOCs (as all the evidence suggests), then MOOCs offer no value. If we’re choosing that we want students to learn more, or to improve retention, or to get networking opportunities with fellow students (future leaders), or to provide remedial help to students without good preparation, those are all good value propositions, but MOOCs help with none of them.
Both Lewis and Lepore are telling us that Universities will only succeed if they are providing value. MOOCs can only disrupt them if they can provide that value better. No matter what the groupthink says, we should promote those models for higher-education that we can argue (logically and with evidence) support our value proposition.
In “The Innovative University,” written with Henry J. Eyring, who used to work at the Monitor Group, a consulting firm co-founded by Michael Porter, Christensen subjected Harvard, a college founded by seventeenth-century theocrats, to his case-study analysis. “Studying the university’s history,” Christensen and Eyring wrote, “will allow us to move beyond the forlorn language of crisis to hopeful and practical strategies for success.” … That doesn’t mean good arguments can’t be made for online education. But there’s nothing factually persuasive in this account of its historical urgency and even inevitability, which relies on a method well outside anything resembling plausible historical analysis.
I thought John Hennessy’s quote below was remarkable, and quite different from his tsunami rhetoric of just last July. I was also struck by this quote later in the piece: “MOOCs are basically the 21st-century equivalent of reading a bunch of books and saying you got a degree.”
“Two words are wrong in ‘MOOC’: massive and open,” Stanford President John Hennessy said in a widely noted interview with the Financial Times.
At Tufts University outside Boston, members of the schools of arts and sciences and faculty in the engineering department approved a policyin December that would allow more Web-based classes to be used toward graduation. But Tufts instructors stopped short of joining the world of MOOCs.
“So much of the big conversation around the country is around these massive online courses, and from our perspective, we don’t see evidence that that’s a model that leads to real learning,” Education Policy Committee head David Hammer told The Tufts Daily, the school newspaper. “If I had 750 students, if I had 7,500 students I’m not going to hear and respond to student thinking.”
I know faculty at both KSU and SPSU. My PhD student, Briana Morrison, is faculty at SPSU. No one that I spoke to had any idea this was happening. These aren’t small schools. SPSU is one of the few universities in Georgia with a publicly-funded engineering program. KSU+SPSU is considerably larger than Georgia Tech. Is this part of the consolidation of higher education foretold by the MOOCopalyptic visions?
Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University will consolidate to form a new institution to be named Kennesaw State University. The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia will be asked by Chancellor Hank Huckaby to approve the consolidation plan during its upcoming November meeting.
“We must continue to carefully examine our structure and programs to ensure we have the right model that best serves our students and the state,” Huckaby said. “This proposal offers us some exciting possibilities to enlarge our academic outreach through the existing talent and resources at both these institutions.”
The decision to consolidate the two institutions, whose combined enrollment this fall is 31,178 students and combined annual economic impact on the region is $1.15 billion
The First Annual ACM Conference on Learning at Scale will be held March 4-5,
2014 in Atlanta, GA (immediately prior to and collocated with SIGCSE-14).
The Learning at Scale conference is intended to promote scientific exchange
of interdisciplinary research at the intersection of the learning sciences
and computer science. Inspired by the emergence of Massive Open Online
Courses (MOOCs) and the accompanying huge shift in thinking about education,
this conference was created by ACM as a new scholarly venue and key focal
point for the review and presentation of the highest quality research on how
learning and teaching can change and improve when done at scale.
“Learning at Scale” refers to new approaches for students to learn and for
teachers to teach, when engaging large numbers of students, either in a
face-to-face setting or remotely, whether synchronous or asynchronous, with
the requirement that the techniques involve large numbers of students (where
“large” is preferably thousands of students, but can also apply to hundreds
in in-person settings). Topics include, but are not limited to: Usability
Studies, Tools for Automated Feedback and Grading, Learning Analytics,
Analysis of Log Data, Studies of Application of Existing Learning Theory,
Investigation of Student Behavior and Correlation with Learning Outcomes,
New Learning and Teaching Techniques at Scale.
November 8, 2013: Paper submissions due
November 8, 2013: Tutorial proposals due
December 23, 2013: Notification to authors of full papers
January 2, 2014: Works-in-progress submissions due (posters and demos)
January 14, 2014: Notification to authors of acceptance of works-in-progress
January 17, 2014: All revised and camera-ready materials due
March 4-5, 2014: Learning at Scale meeting
Additional information is available at: http://learningatscale.acm.org/
My former student, Jeff Rick, has posted a reflection on MOOCs (on Facebook, so I can’t easily link to it from here), with an important point:
There’s an additional element that strikes me as critically missing from MOOCs: feedback to the instructor. Teaching is not about throwing good information out into the world; if so, Wikipedia (or public libraries a la Goodwill Hunting) would make formal education unnecessary. It is about making sure that the students get something out of it. For me, that requires a feedback cycle: realizing what problems students have, changing your teaching to meet their needs / interests, realizing and correcting your mistakes, etc.
Peter Norvig has said that he did the first AI MOOC with Sebastian Thrun explicitly to get more feedback. He was working on a revision for his AI textbook, and he didn’t want to just build it again and throw it into the world. By offering the book/course as a MOOC, he was able to get fine-grained data from many students on how they were using his book.
Teachers offering courses via Coursera or Udacity today get quite little data. The data is all captured behind corporate walls. I talked to Tucker Balch about the data he was gathering from his Coursera course “Computational Investing.” He said that he had the right to survey his students, but Coursera didn’t share any data that they had on the students. He got data on numbers of unique registrants, percent that took the first homework, percent that completed, etc. But nothing about how students did on particular problems, or how long they spent reviewing any particular video. No data that would help you figure out, “Hmm, I don’t think that’s working for the students.”
Isn’t that surprising, that in era of “Big Data,” MOOCs would be about “little data” getting back to the teacher who can most easily improve the course?
I enjoy Richard Hake’s posts. He has done excellent empirical educational research, so he knows what he’s talking about. His posts are filled with links to all kinds of great research and other sources.
This 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, “And they’re not measuring learning, either!”
1. “The online and blended education world, really the higher ed world where most of us spend our days, fails to make any appearance.”
2. “If in fact the real story is the rise of blended and online learning, then [that story] will go completely untold if MOOCs are the sole focus.”
In my opinion, two other problems are that “Laptop U”:
3. Fails to emphasize the fact that MOOCs, like most Higher Ed institutions, concentrate on DELIVERY OF INSTRUCTION rather than STUDENT LEARNING to the detriment of their effectiveness – - see “From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education” [Barr and Tagg (1995)] at <http://bit.ly/8XGJPc>.
4. Ignores the failure of MOOC providers to gauge the effectiveness of their courses by pre-to-postcourse measurement of student learning gains utilizing “Concept Inventories” <http://bit.ly/dARkDY>. As I pointed out “Is Higher Education Running AMOOC?” [Hake (2013) at <http://yhoo.it/12nPMZB>, such assessment would probably demonstrate that MOOCs are actually MOORFAPs (Massive Open Online Repetitions of FAiled Pedagogy). There would then be some incentive to transform MOOCs into MOOLOs (Massive Open Online Learning Opportunities).
Way to go, Wendy! My Georgia Tech colleague did really well at a recent AAAS forum on MOOCs. The tone between the three speakers is striking. Anant Agarwal says “Hype is a good thing!” Kevin Wehrbach says that a MOOC is “an extraordinary teaching and learning experience.” Then Wendy Newstetter lets loose with concerns supported with citations and hard research questions.
In any learning environment, students should gain “transferable knowledge” that can be applied in many contexts, said Newstetter, citing a 2012 National Academies’ report on Education for Life and Work. Specifically, she said, researcher James Pellegrino has identified an array of cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills that all students need in order to succeed. How can the array of new online learning models help students achieve those goals?
Newstetter proposed a series of questions that should be answered by research. Educators need to know, for example, under what conditions technology-mediated experiences can result in enhanced learning competencies, she said. Do MOOCs effectively encourage students to develop perseverance, self-regulation and other such skills? Is knowledge gained in a MOOC “transferable,” so that what students learn can help them solve problems in other contexts? How can MOOCs be enhanced to promote interpersonal skills, and what intrapersonal attributes are needed for optimal learning in MOOCs?
Some observers have suggested that MOOCs tend to work best for more affluent students, Newstetter noted. She mentioned the 2013 William D. Carey lecture, presented at the AAAS Forum by Freeman Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who focused on strategies for helping underrepresented minorities succeed in science fields. “What he described was high-contact, intensive mentoring,” she pointed out.
Interesting results! My President is gung-ho on MOOCs (e.g., sending email out saying that half of the University System of Georgia schools will cease to exist in their current form over the next five years), as is my Provost and my Dean (who sends articles about MOOCs to the faculty weekly). Maybe that’s not so common?
“Based on these findings, it’s clear that the U.Va. situation is just a canary in the coal mine,” said Brandon H. Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education. “College presidents, writ large, are extremely skeptical about the value of MOOCs as it relates to reducing cost, improving quality, and even expanding reach. And with governing boards that have strong business backgrounds and have been reading all of Clay Christensen’s writing about how online education and MOOCs will change the world, there’s bound to be big clashes ahead at most — not just some — institutions.”
Semester Online sounded like a nice idea — getting liberal arts focused institutions to share their online course offerings. The pushback is interesting and reflects some of the issues that have been raised about sustainability of online education as a replacement for face-to-face learning or even as an additional resource.
While Dr. Lange saw the consortium as expanding the courses available to Duke students, some faculty members worried that the long-term effect might be for the university to offer fewer courses — and hire fewer professors. Others said there had been inadequate consultation with the faculty.
When 2U, the online education platform that would host the classes, announced Semester Online last year, it named 10 participants, including Duke, the University of Rochester, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest — none of which will be offering courses this fall. “Schools had to go through their processes to determine how they were going to participate,” said Chance Patterson, a 2U spokesman, “and some decided to wait or go in another direction.”
In case anyone didn’t see the various articles, Georgia Tech’s College of Computing will be offering a Udacity-based MS degree starting. The faculty did vote on the proposal. I argued against it (based mostly on learning and diversity arguments), but lost (which led to my long winter post).
Faculty in the College of Computing have been asked not to talk about the online MS degree (which seems weird to me — asking faculty not to talk about their own degree programs). Please understand if I don’t answer questions in response to this announcement.
Starting in the fall, the Georgia Institute of Technology, together with AT&T and Udacity, an online education venture, will offer a master’s degree in computer science that can be earned entirely through so-called massive open online courses, or MOOCs. While the courses would be available free online to the general public, students seeking the degree would have to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and pay tuition that is expected to be less than $7,000.
In an open letter to a Harvard professor who built a MOOC, faculty at San Jose State University urge him and other MOOC-offering professors to stop. “Professors who care about public education should not produce products that will replace professors, dismantle departments, and provide a diminished education for students in public universities.”
“In spite of our admiration for your ability to lecture in such an engaging way to such a large audience,” the letter’s authors write, “we believe that having a scholar teach and engage with his or her own students is far superior to having those students watch a video of another scholar engaging his or her students.”
The letter is part of a brewing debate about how MOOCs might deepen the divide between wealthy universities, which produce MOOCs, and less wealthy ones, which buy licenses to use those MOOCs from providers like edX.
The authors say they fear “that two classes of universities will be created: one, well-funded colleges and universities in which privileged students get their own real professor; the other, financially stressed private and public universities in which students watch a bunch of videotaped lectures and interact, if indeed any interaction is available on their home campuses, with a professor that this model of education has turned into a glorified teaching assistant.”
I’m guessing that the regents at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign does not think that “the end of the University” is near. At least, not in the next five to seven years.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced this week that it would hire about 500 new full-time, tenure-track faculty members in the next five to seven years.
The hiring spree follows years of budget shortfalls that limited hiring at the university, including one year in which hiring was frozen campuswide. University officials now want to restore the total number of full-time faculty members to a level closer to what the campus had in 2007, just before the recession hit.
The hires will be made in two ways, said Barbara J. Wilson, executive vice provost for faculty and academic affairs. Some new hires will fill traditional roles in academic departments. Others will be hired in clusters.
The “cluster hires,” Ms. Wilson said, will be sorted into the six areas that have been identified by the university’s “Visioning Future Excellence at Illinois” project, an effort begun by the chancellor to map out the university’s needs for the future. The review focused on two questions: “What are society’s most pressing issues?” and “What distinctive and signature role can Illinois play in addressing those issues in the next 20 to 50 years?”
Sir John Daniel was vice-chancellor of the UK Open University, and his book on Mega-Universities changed how I thought about distance education and the significance of economics in making them successful. His essay on MOOCs is the most insightful I’ve yet read on the subject.
Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility
by Sir John Daniel
MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is the educational buzzword of 2012. Through a thoughtful analysis, Sir John Daniel discusses the myths, paradoxes and possibilities for MOOCs in the wider context of the evolution of educational technology and open/distance learning.
I really liked this post, in part because of how differently it is being interpreted within my department. I posted it on a school-wide discussion list, to emphasize the value of what we do that cannot be automated. However, my MOOC-favoring colleagues read this post in exactly the opposite way to how I interpreted it. “Anyone can do this kind of grading, so we shouldn’t waste our time at it! Instead, we should abandon all courses that require this kind of grading.” What can’t be automated isn’t worth doing?
I know that a lot of MOOC-proponents are pushing automatic grading of papers as a cost-effective way to handle classes with over 1000 students. Quite frankly, the idea appalls me—I can’t see any way that computer programs could provide anything like useful feedback to students on any sort of writing above the 1st-grade level. Even spelling checkers (which I insist on students using) do a terrible job, and what passes for grammar checking is ludicrous nonsense. And spelling and grammar are just the minor surface problems, where the computer has some hope of providing non-negative advice. But the feedback I’m providing covers lots of other things like the structure of the document, audience assessment, ordering of ideas, flow of sentences within a paragraph, proper topic sentences, design of graphical representation of data, feedback on citations, even suggestions on experiments to try—none of which would be remotely feasible with the very best of artificial intelligence available in the next 10 years.
When I read about the burgeoning applications to colleges, I’m reminded of the claim that college degrees aren’t worth anything and that higher education is completely broken.
Stanford offered admission to 2,210 students via electronic notification today, producing – at 5.69 percent – the lowest admit rate in University history.…On Thursday, several peer institutions also reported historically low admit rates. Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton admitted 5.8, 6.72, 6.89 and 7.29 percent of applicants respectively.