Woodie Flowers at MIT on edX: Hostile Takeover or Helping Hand?

October 9, 2012 at 8:16 am 8 comments

I strongly agree with Woodie Flowers in this essay he wrote about MOOCs at MIT. His assessment of edX, Udacity, and Coursera is linked below. But I particularly liked this paragraph from later in the essay:

There are many nondestructive and exciting paths that take advantage of digital technology. Let’s pick one of those. For example, we could learn from history. Using textbooks for a few centuries has taught us a lot. They keep the local instructor in the educational process. I believe that “new media texts” are a much better model for helping education. One of the “sweet spots” includes materials that are beautifully produced, feedback enabled, and modular. Think of short, elegant textbook chapters that include automatic homework and quiz grading coupled to analytical data tools. Such a format could continuously improve and morph with the digital world. Successful modules would be the product of a coordinated effort so that they embody a logical progression and use consistent nomenclature.

Exactly! Books work. Let’s make books better. Why build off lectures? Why try to “take over” courses?

For good reasons, a MOOC is viewed as a hostile takeover of a course. Since the MITx announcement, I have given presentations on education reform in Spain, Australia, and the U.S. A paraphrased reaction I have heard from other faculties is, “Those big-endowment elitists are trying to undermine our institution.” The MOOC model is an arrogant statement about what a course should be. Educators do not react favorably to being taken out of that decision process and potentially out of the picture altogether.Even for ad hoc learning and continuing education, a whole course is an oversize bite that is not likely to fit users’ needs. In very few instances will the starting point, coverage, and end point designed for MIT be right for other schools.I believe MOOCs are a fad. Right now, their purveyors are preoccupied by a race to volume.

via edX: Hostile Takeover or Helping Hand?.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alfredtwo  |  October 9, 2012 at 10:52 am

    I am a big Woodie Flowers fan. And I agree with what he says. I think the MOOC movement is all about the lecture or perhaps the course and that misses a key piece of education. I think back on my own college years and the one to one conversations with peers and with faculty were key parts of my learning that extended beyond the classroom or the course. Likewise the personal projects that I took on alone or again with peers were great learning experiences. I wrote something about the trouble with courses on my own blog recently (http://alfredtwo.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-problem-with-courses.html). I realize that we will never get rid of courses of course. But as I see it the value of the university is far more than the courses. We risk losing that value if everything is a MOOC.

  • 2. dennisfrailey  |  October 10, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Time will tell if Moocs are a fad. Moocs as we know them today may soon be a thing of the past, but use of computers and networking to increase the inpact of education while reducing the cost of education is something that we should embrace rather than resisting. If we don’t we’ll be swept by the wayside. The traditional model of higher education is simply too labor intensive to be economically viable in the long run.

    • 3. Muvaffak Gozaydin  |  October 10, 2012 at 11:12 am

      Many people put edx ( MITx + Harvardx + Berkeleyx ) , Coursera, Udacity into same basket.
      It is 100 % wrong .
      Coursera , Udacity are for profit, their courses are for adults 5-6-7 weeks long, they do not know how to finance it yet . Their courses are not the same as oncampus courses .

      But I have to confess that they are fantastic marketing people.

      EDX that is MIT and Harvard. MIT started online strategy in 2001 with open courseware project. They have gained 100,000,000 customers, that is students, teachers in 11 years.
      They realised ONLINE means SCALE, that is million of students.
      Therefore they declared their MITx project in December 2010 while there is no MOOC around .
      Since MIT was on the right tract Harvard and Berkeley joined MIT .
      They are , please be careful , NON PROFIT . They do not need money .
      But they are so smart when they attract millions their cost is NILL therefore they plan to charge a small fee for exams . That is more than enough to finance the whole project .
      They also provide 100 % same course online as in the oncampus .
      Even $ 50,000 tuition paying students ( 75 % of them ) are following online courses rather than attending into classroom .

      Therefore I agree that Coursera, Udacity followers are just following a fad . I cannot understand those universities why in the world they are doing it . It seems really they do not know what they are doing.
      I hope they will stop some time .

  • 4. Michael C. Johnson  |  October 10, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Interesting. I agree with the general premise (let’s not take the local teacher out of the equation). But is there room for both? What if local teachers worked with MOOCs ,used MOOCs as a expanded form of textbooks to allow the students to learn, but to be there local to provide discussion, feedback on their work, etc., all the great things that it is nice to have someone close by for… Do you get my meaning? Any way, sometimes it might be cool to take a course (albeit “massive”) from a known expert in a particular field. I worry a little about an “either/or” position.

    • 5. Muvaffak Gozaydin  |  October 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      Colorado State University, Global Campus
      University of Freiburg in Germany
      University of Salzburg in Austria
      have accepted one course of UDACITY as a transferred credit toward their degree programs .

      Although I do not like UDACITY
      I am glad that these universities and colleges accepted an online course as a transferred credit for their degree programs .

      If a college finds it is valuable, they should accept any online certificate as transferred credit. Sure their check is important .

      I suggest to all colleges in the world ,
      ” accept the certificates of MITx + Harvardx as transferred credits in your degree programs ”
      If you want you can make another exam before your acceptance .
      That improves the quality of all colleges plus saves 10 % of the cost of the college for each course accepted.
      Plus it is nice to see in my transcript saying
      ” such and such courses were taken at MITx and Harvardx “

  • 6. Steve  |  October 18, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I am taking 6.00x with MITx and the statement that MOOC’s are just about lectures instead of books couldn’t be farther from the truth. So much time is wasted on campus and so few can actually afford to go to one.

    So far I have learned the old-fashioned way, by making mistakes and having to research the knowledge I need to figure out problems. These are graded automatically and one can cheat if one wishes; but the target market is those persons who need the knowledge, not the certificate.

    Besides, it is clear that MIT is studying us as much as we are studying the course content. Probably more. They are learning about learning on a scale that has never before been possible.

  • […] the last three weeks, I’ve spent a day at MIT (talking to several MITx and edX researchers) and two days at Stanford (where just about everyone I met is teaching MOOCs in Coursera or […]


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