Wednesday, August 21, 2013

More Observations on MOOCS

I just finished a MOOC course and it included a peer grading exercise. What chaos! Imagine several thousands of people of varying degrees of competence in hundreds of countries grading other people whom they have no knowledge of. It is interesting but it becomes uncontrolled chaos.

For example:

There were N questions and of course one looks for N answers. Without exception not one sample I saw linked an answer to a question. You had to read a complex paragraph to try to intuit where the question was answered. If I were teaching the course they all would have failed. But that was not to be.

What is an answer? If you ask a question then one or two words may suffice. Why write the great American novel for an answer. But alas they just rambles on.

Plagiarism, some students who wrote on the Discussion Group went looking for it anywhere. Frankly the "rules" are so loose and it was open book that if you found the answer somewhere, anywhere, let it be, this is not for real folks, it is a free course and you will not be judged by anyone except yourself.

Rambling Discussions. Not being a Twitter or Facebook user perhaps I am deficient in understanding run of the thumbs discussions. But they go on all over the place. I wonder if any of these people have a life.

Culture does come through. I should not have been surprised but one can see cultural factors coming through in judgmental statements.

You have the Twitter generation, the Facebook crowd, people just mouthing off as if each person is equal, no matter what they know or what they achieved. Every person has their opinion and they throw this into the mix. This is intellectual chaos. Frankly the system is rigged for chaos. 

I had never seen this type of  back stage discussions in my years of teaching but I guess it must have existed. But I suspect that it presents a treasure trove for sociologists and anthropologists.Peer grading in my opinion is a disaster. It brings forth the total cultural confusion of our world. Black and white multiple choice keeps those forces under control. But the cat is now out of the bag!

One wonders what all the hype is about. Some Mongolian teenager gets 100% on MIT electronics? Praiseworthy indeed, akin to some backwater American doing the same, if we knew the ancestry. Details do count. Again the reason people go to MIT is not to ace an online test. They most likely did that in Secondary School. The reason they go is to understand how to understand. How to pose the question, how to use a plethora of tools to come up with the right answer, or at least a good one, and recognizing good from bad. If the goal is just doing well on a test, then we become India and China, masses of test takers, all prepping to score high. Frankly we already have that in the SATs, and we see masses of prepping. True education is thinking differently, questioning the common and extending the mind to new areas. Manipulating on line courses is at best a means to an end, never the end in itself.