I noticed that Kate and Sharath both posted on the transformative MOOC model of online learning. Since MOOCs have potential to significantly impact the future of education, I wanted to share a conversation from The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle asked four professors of different subjects, teaching on different platforms (Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, and Blackboard), to share their thoughts on the experience of teaching free online courses to thousands of students. I will post a couple of the most inspiring and thought-provoking highlights here, perhaps there will be something we can learn from the professors as EdLab considers the value and process of the MOOC model and different platforms.
Q. Has anything surprised you about the students who signed up for your course?
A. The breadth of the students is remarkable—there were 9-year olds who completed CS 101 ["Introduction to Computer Science"] and were enthusiastic about taking follow-on classes, and 80-plus-year-old retirees sending e-mails about using parts of their brains they forgot they had; there were many students with no background in computing, from neurosurgeons to truck drivers, but others who've been working in professional software development for many years; there were students from hundreds of countries around the world.
Q. Do you have any concerns going into the course—about format, implications for universities, or any other aspect of this unusual venture?
A. Sure—I have lots of concerns. The biggest one is whether I can produce in this environment the experiential engagement and personal investment that I think is the critical distinction between knowledge and wisdom, and between data transfer and education. Great education is transformative. Data transfer isn't. I know that this environment is an efficient way to add to the aggregate hard drives of human brains, but is it adequate to reshape the processor and its capabilities? I have only ever known this kind of transformation to happen in a high-touch, personal educational environment, built on give-and-take interaction...
A. At this point, I don't have concerns, but rather hopes. I hope that the willingness of American university professors to do free MOOC's will enhance the image of universities among Americans, many of whom think of tenured university professors as people always looking to get out of teaching, always obsessed with their own research. I hope that watching us teach simply because we're passionate about conveying our subject matter will start to weaken this view of the professoriate.
A. ...Each MOOC is different. I think we need additional research on how to structure a MOOC, the types and forms of incentives to embed in such a course, the forms of learning assistance or scaffolding that are now possible, the range of resources that can bolster a MOOC-like experience, and so on. But a successful MOOC for an introductory or intermediate college course is much different in content and delivery format than what might prove effective in a professional-development MOOC.