Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Perhaps This is why MOOCs Have Problems?

I just read a note on the edX blog extolling the benefits of a MOOC in place of in person lectures. Sometimes the words can also be interpreted to demonstrate the problems more so than extol the thought of benefits.

Let me explain. First they state:

The course attracted over 7,500 students from 147 countries in its first run and was a prized specimen for researchers, data analysts and online course developers alike. By studying the dataset, correlations among different student demographics, learning patterns (e.g., clicking and seeking) and performance can be examined. An interesting finding was that students who performed best in assignments did not have high engagement in forums, probably meaning that they did not require much peer assistance in understanding the contents.

The problem is that the background and interest of the students bias the results greatly. In addition the data set is most likely in error. People report what they want to report and the reliability of anything in a MOOC is highly suspect.

They continue:

Although producing a MOOC takes more effort than face-to-face (F2F) lecturing, in Dr. Kajimoto’s point of view, the benefits outweigh the costs. As every single word in the videos has to be scripted, having a solid script helped Dr. Kajimoto realize how repetitive on-campus lectures are and how time in class can be better spent. Flipping the lectures also resulted in better activities engagement and quality of discussion, as students had much more time and motivation to prepare for tutorials. Peer pressure was also a factor as students fear lagging behind their classmates.

There is a key point in the above, namely that having a solid script helped Dr. Kajimoto realize how repetitive on-campus lectures are and how time in class can be better spent..

Repetitive is often what is needed in class. Saying or presenting a new concept once in one way often does not work. I recall again my first MOOC, if you will, a College Chemistry course on Television in 1959. 6AM and every day for 45 min. Somewhere along the way I missed the definition of a mole, not the ones on skin, but a chemical metric. So for a few weeks, not having access to anyone who knew, I wandered until I found it out. Then, back on track. The same problem befalls MOOCs today. For example a recent MOOC told you to open R, a statistical package, with 4 screens. Well try and find the other 2! It is that type of brick wall that redundant teaching, inefficient teaching if you will, eliminates.

Redundancy allows, enables, conversation and thought. If all you want to do is transfer your facts then the MOOC works, but remember that the other side may not get them. 

Thus this Blog note states a long list of problems, much more so than any benefits.