Why My MOOC is Not Built on Video

05 Mar

By Lorena A. Barba

The participants of #NumericalMOOC will have noticed that we made only one video for the course. I thought that maybe I would do a handful more. But in the end I didn’t and I don’t think it matters too much.

Why didn’t we have more video? The short answer is budget and time: making good-quality videos is expensive & making simple yet effective educational videos is time consuming, if not necessarily costly. #NumericalMOOC was created on-the-fly, with little budget. But here’s my point: expensive, high-production-value videos are not necessary to achieve a quality learning experience.

The fixation with videos in MOOCs, online courses and blended learning is worrisome. At the edX Global Forum (November 2014), it was often mentioned that producing a MOOC is a high-cost operation, with an estimated average expense of $100,000 per course. This is probably a somewhat overindulgent price for appearance, rather than substance. There is no evidence justifying the “production value” from a learning perspective. In fact, as far back as 1971, Donald Bligh concluded that “there is not much difference in the effectiveness of methods to present information.” [1] In this sense, a video—however nicely produced—is not better than a lecture.

A personal anecdote

I recently decided that I needed to brush up on my knowledge of statistics. As a student of mechanical engineering, I took an undergraduate “Probability and Statistics” course years ago, but I don’t remember that much. With an interest in education research, I now feel I should be in command of one particular concept: p-values.

So, I registered for a MOOC: “Statistics in Medicine,” by Kristin Sainani, on Stanford Online. The content of this course is excellent and Sainani is brilliant: she uses many examples from the medical literature that make the subject come alive. Of course, I could hardly have the time to complete a traditional MOOC (with deadlines and a set end date)—last Fall, I was designing and teaching my own MOOC!—and the best I hoped for was to watch the lectures dealing with the concepts I wanted to learn.

I watched the first few lecture videos, to get a baseline, then cherry-picked the videos dealing with p-values. It was perfect to watch the vids on my iPad while on the treadmill, getting some needed exercise at the same time. The concepts were clear: I could follow the explanations easily and the examples put things in context and helped me understand the importance of knowing statistics!

[ Full article available at Class-Central: ]


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Posted by on March 5, 2015 in Best Practices


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