Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MOOC Assessments

The assessments of MOOCs has been a spotty effort yet MIT has published some detail in 2014 and it has been announced by MIT that they will be publishing an up to date assessment. We highlight and comment on what is made available:

First, while many MOOC creators and providers have increased access to learning opportunities, those who are accessing MOOCs are disproportionately those who already have college and graduate degrees. 

 That is interesting in a way. First I have observed many via Discussion groups who have little or no experience. Further those who may have limited in the fields in which they are trying to gain knowledge. Perhaps a better sampling at more detailed levels is necessary. For example how many PhDs in what fields, and when it was obtained. I suspect that many spend some time getting some knowledge but often drop out because of time spent and also because of poor teaching techniques.

Second, if improving online and on-campus learning is a priority, then “the flow of pedagogical innovations needs to be formalized,” Chuang says. For example, many of the MOOCs in the study used innovations from their campus counterparts, like physics assessments from MIT and close-reading practices from Harvard’s classics courses....The real potential is in the fostering of feedback loops between the two realms,” Chuang says. “In particular, the high number of teacher participants signals great potential for impact beyond Harvard and MIT, especially if deliberate steps could be taken to share best practices...

 Indeed feedback would be useful. For example, a classic presentation is Lander's. Others could learn from video style. Others could also learn from presentation style. An interesting analysis would be a critique of the instructors and then cross tabbing the instructor with the demographics of the ones doing the critique. There is a great deal of improvement and learning in style of presentation. The instructor who just "presents" as the always do and then assumes that a video of it is sufficient is truly making a mistake. The Lander presentation is wonderful because on the one hand he acknowledges and works with the students in class and also acknowledges the person online, albeit displaced in space and time. In many ways the MOOCs must learn the way early television did, there must be producers and directors, and style is as important as content.

Also the feedback is critical. Now, frankly, there is none. Discussion groups may be there but the TA or equivalent is monitoring at best. Focus Groups would be essential, online focus groups with the instructors would be a substantial benefit. This is especially true when one has such a diverse group of participants.

Third, advancing research through MOOCs may require a more nuanced definition of audience. Much of the research to date has done little to differentiate among the diverse participants in these free, self-paced learning environments.

 Marketing was always a part of television. They needed advertisers and the advertisers really wanted to know what the audience watched and wanted. Perhaps that element is necessary. Market segmentation has always been a part of the research and that segmentation should be part of what the MOOCs do. If all else fails listen to the customer!