By Joshua Bolkan
Amherst College’s recent and much publicized decision not to join nonprofit massive open online course (MOOC) provider edX draws a stark line between small classroom instruction and the online courses that sometimes enroll more than 100,000 students at a time.
Amherst’s Chair of Neuroscience Stephen A. George led the faculty rejection of edX. It wasn’t a rejection of online learning or open resources or the idea of making entire courses available for free online that they rejected, he said. “It was just the massive, synchronous MOOC that didn’t seem to fit” with the school’s mission and identity.
While few would quibble with the claim that in-person instruction benefits from smaller class sizes, a case can be made that online courses – and perhaps instruction as a whole – may be improved when massive numbers of students participate.
It’s not immediately apparent from the outside how a course with tens or even hundreds of thousands of students from around the world could create any kind of collaborative community conducive to cogenerative learning. But Michelle Rhee-Weise, education senior research fellow at Innosight Institute, explained that although the peer-to-peer learning looks very different from what we expect in a classroom, “we shouldn’t be looking at these online courses as a replication of what’s going” there.
[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2013/05/02/massive-what-good-is-the-m-in-mooc.aspx ]