Massive open online courses: Either the answer to the biggest problems in higher education, or a sign of the commodification of college. What’s all the fuss about MOOCs? The article on this page is an excerpt from a new e-book, Beyond the MOOC Hype, which provides a helpful and compelling guide.
The e-book’s author, Jeffrey R. Young, technology editor at The Chronicle, says that while MOOCs are not the typical tech fad, they may not be the savior their proponents promise. Succeed or fail, they have touched off a battle over the future of higher education.
Buried in all the hype about MOOCs is a somewhat surprising admission by some of the world’s leading universities—that their teaching methods may not be very good.
Lectures are the norm for introductory courses at colleges worldwide, from large research universities to local community colleges. But there’s a growing sense that monologues by professors are of limited effectiveness for many of today’s students. The teaching style is a tradition passed down through generations of academics, and despite the addition of computers, projectors, and PowerPoint, little has changed in the basic model: A professor talks, large numbers of students listen, and one or two brave souls ask questions in the final moments. Class dismissed.
When Harvard and MIT announced that they would pump $30-million each into edX, they stressed that a key reason was to use the MOOC platform as a laboratory to test new teaching methods that could be brought back to their renowned campuses.
That reasoning was laid out during a conference at MIT in June 2013, in a speech by Sanjay Sarma, who leads MIT’s MOOC efforts. Ironically, the speech took place in a large lecture hall. The talk was called “The Magic Beyond the MOOCs.”
[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/Will-MOOCs-Change-Campus/142869/ ]