Posts tagged ‘MOOCs’
Seymour Papert might have predicted this. It doesn’t matter if they’re great or not. It is very hard for educational technology to disrupt school. School fights back, and schoolifies subjects and technologies. I said before: Education is technology’s Afghanistan. Lots of technologies have come in and tried to change everything, and the technologies come out limping.
Massive open online courses will not fundamentally reshape higher education, nor will they disappear altogether. Those are the conclusions of separate reports released this week by Teachers College at Columbia University and Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit advisory group.
Neither report contains any blockbuster news for those who have followed the decline of the MOOC hype over the last year or so. But they support the theory that the tools and techniques Stanford University professors used in 2011 to enroll 160,000 students in a free, online computer-science course will be subsumed by broader, incremental efforts to improve higher education with technology.
MOOCs are like free gyms, says Mr. Kelly. They might enable some people—mostly people who are already healthy and able to work out without much guidance—to exercise more. But they won’t do much for people who need intensive physical therapy or the care of a doctor.
Great interview with Sebastian Thrun. I particularly found fascinating his candid response to this important question.
That doesn’t sound like democratizing education, if only the affluent can afford the version that works.
I would be careful to say this is not democratizing it. Any alternative path is actually much more expensive. We managed to lower the cost by a factor of ten. Going to the extreme and saying it has to be absolutely free might be a bit premature. I care about making education work. Everything else being equal, I would love to do this at the lowest possible price point. Where we’ve converged is right. You don’t need a college degree anymore. I would be careful with the conclusion that this is the end of democratization. We still have the free model for students. It just doesn’t work as well — it’s just a fact.
Roger Schank (one of the founders of both cognitive science and learning science) declares MOOCs dead (including Georgia Tech’s OMS degree, explicitly), while recommending a shift to Mentored Simulation Experiences. I find his description of MSE’s interesting — I think our ebook work is close to what he’s describing, since we focus on worked examples (as a kind of “mentoring”) and low cognitive-load practice (with lots of feedback).
So, while I am declaring online education dead, because every university is doing it and the market will soon be flooded with crap, I am not declaring the idea of a learning by doing mentored experience dead.
So, I propose a new name, Mentored Simulated Experiences.
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.
My colleague, Amy Bruckman, considers in her blog how HCI design principles lead us to question whether MOOCs can achieve their goals.
Can a MOOC teach course content to anyone, anywhere? It’s an imagination-grabbing idea. Maybe everyone could learn about topics from the greatest teachers in the world! Create the class once, and millions could learn from it!
It seems like an exciting idea. Until you realize that the entire history of human-computer interaction is about showing us that one size doesn’t fit all.
Important article that gets at some of my concerns about using MOOCs to inform education research. The sampling bias mentioned in the article below is one of my responses to the claim that we can inform education research by analyzing the results of MOOCs. We can only learn from the data of participants. If 90% of the students go away, we can’t learn about them. Making claims about computing education based on the 10% who complete a CS MOOC (and mostly white/Asian, male, wealthy, and well-educated at that) is bad science.
Cheerleaders for big data have made four exciting claims, each one reflected in the success of Google Flu Trends: that data analysis produces uncannily accurate results; that every single data point can be captured, making old statistical sampling techniques obsolete; that it is passé to fret about what causes what, because statistical correlation tells us what we need to know; and that scientific or statistical models aren’t needed because, to quote “The End of Theory”, a provocative essay published in Wired in 2008, “with enough data, the numbers speak for themselves”.
Unfortunately, these four articles of faith are at best optimistic oversimplifications. At worst, according to David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge university, they can be “complete bollocks. Absolute nonsense.”
The report on the CCC’s workshop on MOOCs and other online education technologies is now out.
In February 2013 the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) sponsored the Workshop on Multidisciplinary Research for Online Education (MROE). This visioning activity explored the research opportunities at the intersection of the learning sciences, and the many areas of computing, to include human-computer interactions, social computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and modeling and simulation.
The workshop was motivated and informed by high profile activities in massive, open, online education (MOOE). Point values of “massive” and “open” are extreme values that make explicit, in ways not fully appreciated previously, variability along multiple dimensions of scale and openness.
The report for MROE has been recently completed and is online. It summarizes the workshop activities and format, and synthesizes across these activities, elaborating on 4 recurring themes:
- Next Generation MOOCs and Beyond MOOCs
- Evolving Roles and Support for Instructors
- Characteristics of Online and Physical Modalities
- Physical and Virtual Community
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.”
An interesting blog 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 teaching more effective. Student engagement pedagogies are likely to make teaching more effective, but it’s still an open question how to make those happen in a MOOC.
But the presenter of a MOOC is not likely to be a passive player in the same sense. Video is a dynamic medium, that used well can establish a significant emotional connection between the speaker and the audience. This is already clear in some MOOCs, and as production gets better and better this emotional quality of the courses will only improve.
What’s more, MOOC instructors are always at their best. They never have an off day. They never have a pressing grant deadline. All those bad takes got edited out. The students will also always hear them clearly, and when they don’t, the MOOC instructor will patiently repeat what they said. As many times as the student wants.
I’m completely open to the idea that completion rates are the wrong measures of success for MOOCs. But I do believe that we need some measure. What would success for MOOCs mean? How do we know if it’s being achieved? Or if it’s a waste of time and money?
In the meantime, the Harvard and MIT researchers said they hoped the new studies would help people understand that technology and scale are not the only things that distinguish MOOCs from other kinds of higher education.
“People are projecting their own desires onto MOOCs,” said Mr. Ho, “and then holding them accountable for criteria that the instructors and institutions and, most importantly, students don’t hold for themselves.”
Interesting data about who’s online, and who’s not, and how income plays a role in that. 85% of Americans are online. The biggest reasons that the last 15% don’t participate is because of a sense of irrelevance of the Internet and because of perceived complexity, i.e., poor usability.
The link below is about the interaction between Internet access and age. These results speak to the promise of and limitations of MOOCs, as was also seen in some of the San Jose State reports. Low-income users often access the Internet via the library or cellphone, which changes the expectation for using MOOCs.
Aaron Smith, Senior Researcher at the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, discusses the Project’s latest research about internet usage, broadband adoption, and the impact of mobile connectivity among lower-income populations.
Interesting article studying the lack of discussion in MOOC discussion forums. I’m surprised that the teacher involvement doesn’t improve matters. It may be that the scale swamps out the teacher demonstrating value for the discussion. Our past work in CSCL suggests that the culture of the class (e.g., the subject, the rewards structure, etc.) influences discussion behavior, and that they’d get more on-target discussion with anchored collaboration.
These guys have studied the behaviour in online discussion forums of over 100,000 students taking massive open online courses (or MOOCs).
And they have depressing news. They say that participation falls precipitously and continuously throughout a course and that almost half of registered students never post more than twice to the forums. What’s more, the participation of a teacher doesn’t improve matters. Indeed, they say there is some evidence that a teacher’s participation in an online discussion actually increases the rate of decline.
Interesting results, and nice to hear that the new initiative will be named for Herb Simon.
The Science of Learning Center, known as LearnLab, has already collected more than 500,000 hours’ worth of student data since it initially received funding from the National Science Foundation about nine years ago, its director Ken Koedinger said. That number translates to about 200 million times when students of a variety of age groups and subject areas have clicked on a graph, typed an equation or solved a puzzle.
The center collects studies conducted on data gathered from technology-enhanced courses in algebra, chemistry, Chinese, English as a second language, French, geometry and physics in an open wiki.
One such study showed that students performed better in algebra if asked to explain what they learned in their own words, for example. In another study, physics students who took time answering reflection questions performed better on tests than their peers.
Interesting where AT&T is making its investments: $1.6M from AT&T to expand access to software engineering curriculum in high school, in comparison with $2M to setup OMS at GT.
Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott today announced that AT&T will donate $1.6 million to expand software engineering curriculum for students in 12 New York City public high schools across the five boroughs. The contribution to the Fund for Public Schools builds on the work of the Software Engineering Pilot and will support the launch of a new enrichment program for 9th graders, paid summer internships for high school students and other academic activities like boot camps and hackathons.
The initiative is a next step in the Administration’s work to develop programs that provide students with skills they need to thrive in college and to enter the computer and engineering workforce. The Mayor and Chancellor made the announcement at the Urban Assembly Gateway for Technology School in Manhattan, where the programming will begin next year. They were joined by Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot, New York City Economic Development Corporation President Kyle Kimball and AT&T New York State President Marissa Shorenstein.