Posts tagged ‘MOOCopalypse’
Perhaps we succeeded in preventing the MOOCopalypse, despite the claims that “Computer Science MOOCS march forward!” Since the MOOC phenomenon was mostly fed by the media, the decline of interest from the media may be a good sign.
The news media’s appetite for MOOC stories has been insatiable. So when the University of Pennsylvania sent an email inviting several hundred education reporters to a seminar on massive open online courses, it anticipated a healthy turnout.
But as the catering deadline approached at the National Press Club, in Washington, organizers realized that they had barely enough registered attendees to justify a platter of finger food.
“We didn’t have a set thing in mind as to how many would attend, but what we were thinking was 15 to 20 from, let’s call them, ‘established’ media outlets,” said Ron Ozio, director of media relations at Penn. “And we got four.”
The university canceled the event.
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).