The Real Legacy of MOOCs: Better Introductory Courses

27 Aug

By Joshua Kim

Just two years ago, some were heralding “the year of the MOOC” – the age when Massive Open Online Courses would permanently disrupt the higher education landscape and open instruction free to the masses. We’re now in what some call the “trough of disillusionment on the Gartner Hype Cycle.” In the open online learning community, this shift away from the “peak of inflated expectations” that we found ourselves in during 2012 represents a welcome correction.

Rather than a narrative that puts the MOOC phenomenon within a “bound-to-crash and there will be tears” frame, I believe we will eventually be telling a much happier story about the impact of MOOC hype. This will not be a story about open online learning replacing traditional bricks-and-mortar institutions or of one superstar professor replacing the teaching of thousands of others. Instead, the real impact of MOOCs will be felt far away from the open online edX or Coursera courses. The real impact of MOOCs will be found in the traditional introductory course.

Starting from the bottom

Visit any campus today, from an R1 research university to a small liberal arts college, and you will see some amazing changes going on. For the first time in … well, maybe for the first time ever, the introductory course is being systematically rethought, recreated and re-engineered. In fairness, this trend to redesign introductory courses builds on the pioneering work of Carol Twigg and the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT).

The difference today in the midst of the introductory course redesign revolution is about motivations and scale.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user  Jirka Matousek  and used here by Creative Commons license.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jirka Matousek and used here by Creative Commons license.

In previous years, the central motivation to redesign large introductory courses has been retention and costs. In STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), the course completion rate for introductory courses has been disturbingly low at many institutions. The failure of an individual student to complete a math or science introductory course carries with it many personal and institutional costs. A failed introductory STEM class will increase the likelihood that a student does not complete a degree in six years, will decrease (obviously) the probability that the student will major in a STEM field and will increase institutional and funder costs as classes need to be retaken.

[ Full article available at PBS’s EducationShift: ]

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Posted by on August 27, 2014 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News


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