GT and Coursera’s MOOC stumble: Why they are still experiments

February 5, 2013 at 7:26 am 6 comments

Since I do write about MOOCs a lot here, it would be disingenuous of me not to report on the Coursera MOOC that got pulled, especially since it was from Georgia Tech. I think this is an example that proves MOOCs are still experiments. This would be a much worse story if this was a required course, or one that students had paid tuition for.

The course got off to a bad start; one student reported that the first e-mail he got from the instructor “was not an introduction to the course per se, nor instructions for getting started, but rather an apology for the technical glitches that were, unbeknownst to me, already occurring.”

Ms. Wirth had tried to use Google Docs to help the course’s 40,000 enrolled students to organize themselves into groups. But that method soon became derailed when various authors began editing the documents. Things continued downhill from there; some students also had problems downloading certain course materials that had been added to the syllabus at the last minute. When the confusion continued, Georgia Tech decided to call a timeout.

via Georgia Tech and Coursera Try to Recover From MOOC Stumble – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dennisfrailey  |  February 5, 2013 at 7:55 am

    GT should have consulted some of the other schools that have been doing this sort of thing for years. Their problems were all predictable. Too many creative ideas and not enough effort to get the fundamentals working. Learn to crawl before you start running.

  • 2. Daniel Hickey (@dthickey)  |  February 5, 2013 at 7:56 am

    I just posted this at the Chronicle:

    I am concerned that the risk of becoming a “punch line” like this is going to discourage many from exploring more interactive activities and social practices–it looks like that is what the instructor was attempting to enact. Is that the lesson that we are going to take away from this example? I hope not. Perhaps attempting something new from the outset of a course with 40,000 students enrolled is unwise. IMO we need more systematic design-based refinement of practices like this. Perhaps this particular practice should have been tried out first with a subset of volunteers in an existing course, or in a smaller course with fewer students. More broadly, I wonder what is happening with all of the knowledge that is being generated in what looks more like trial and error MOOC design.

    I am doing a BOOC (Big, up to 500) next fall and have plans for fostering productive disciplinary engagement among participants. Anybody know of efforts like this one that succeeded? If so what was different?

    • 3. dennisfrailey  |  February 5, 2013 at 9:08 am

      SMU, where I’ve been teaching for over forty years, has been doing distance education since the 1960’s. Stanford, which started shortly afterward, has a similar story. Many other schools have also done it. At SMU, as technology changed, we learned to do more and better things. While we still don’t attempt all the things I read about with some of the MOOCs, but our system works reliably and consistently, year after year. Here are two important “lessons learned”: 1) adapt to the new technology and develop a new teaching paradigm; don’t try to reproduce the traditional classroom paradigm; 2) crawl before you walk before you run. Don’t get too ambitious. I’m sure any of these institutions could provide more details.

  • 5. Greg Wilson  |  February 5, 2013 at 11:01 am

    I’m no fan of xMOOCs, but to be fair, how many “regular” university courses would be canceled because of technical glitches and poor planning if such a thing were allowed? I’ve certainly been in a couple that should have been…

  • 6. The Mooc that ate itself - reestheskin  |  February 7, 2013 at 7:57 am

    […] More at computing education blog […]


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