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The MOOC Completion Conundrum: Can ‘Born Digital’ Fix Online Education?

21 Aug

Image: courosa/Flickr

By Dror Ben-Naim

One of the great ironies of online learning is that a tool created to foster personalized learning is actually quite impersonal, in practice. It doesn’t have to be that way.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) are based on a simple premise: deliver free content from the world’s greatest professors to the masses, and a global community of students could take the same courses as students attending elite colleges and universities. The hope was that broad-based access to higher education would enable unprecedented numbers of learners to fulfill the democratic promise of higher education, social mobility and professional attainment.

It is now clear that the hype surrounding MOOCs has outpaced the model’s ability to deliver on the promise of a revolution in higher education. Initial data demonstrates that MOOCs have lived up to their name in terms of generating massive enrollments; however, completion rates — including introductory, lecture courses — hover in the low single digits.

These findings should not be surprising. MOOCs combine a set of existing tools that can be useful instructional supports, such as online lectures, social networks, and quizzes. But few professors would consider these technologies, together, as a substitute for the course experience.

Last month, Columbia Teachers College released a MOOC progress report, which took a close look at implementation challenges and barriers to success. The report stated that “while the potential for MOOCs to contribute significantly to the development of personalized and adaptive learning is high, the reality is far from being achieved.” To get there, “a great deal of coordination and collaboration among content experts, instructors, researchers, instructional designers, and programmers will be necessary.”

Charting A Different Course: Pedagogical Ownership

The quality of MOOCs raises two fundamental questions: Is the traditional lecture experience worth replicating? Can online courses do better — informing teaching and learning or, perhaps, rethinking the approach entirely?

[ Full article available at WIRED: http://innovationinsights.wired.com/insights/2014/08/mooc-completion-conundrum-can-born-digital-fix-online-education/ ]

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Posted by on August 21, 2014 in MOOCs in the News, Op-Ed

 

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