Only a handful of sessions at SXSWedu this year used “MOOC” in their titles or descriptions, but those four letters were still mentioned quite a bit.
It is safe to say, MOOCs have been passed over as the disruptor du jour of higher education. But this is a good thing, because now we can get on with the real work to figure out how to best study, utilize and improve their role in education.
Here are a few of the takeaways I gathered about MOOCs during the conference:
Renewed focus on teaching in research universities
We’ve been hearing for some time that one benefit of creating MOOCs is an opportunity to improve teaching, but this now seems to be an explicit focus of instructors and administrators. The main driver is the necessity of creating modular lessons, which forces instructors to re-conceive the subject material from the ground up, akin to the redesign process of “refactoring” in computer science.
The Chronicle of Higher Education editor Jeffrey Young welcomed this emphasis on teaching at research universities, which bucks a trend towards a greater focus on research activities. Even George Siemens, of University of Texas at Arlington, one of the originators of MOOCs and a critic of its current popular form, concedes their singular impact on teaching:
“With the development of MOOCs–and I’ll put it squarely on MOOCs–we’ve seen a conversation on teaching and learning in higher education, across institutions and various faculty that have never had this conversation.”
The lecture hall is a prime target to go blended
Several professors and administrators talked about how MOOCs can help “flip” large introductory lecture classes. They are prime targets for several reasons:
- they cover a relatively stable base of knowledge that can be easily reused,
- the large class sizes justify the investment in high-quality online content, and
- everyone recognizes that large lectures are impersonal and passive experiences.
[ Full article available at edSurge: https://www.edsurge.com/n/2015-03-20-from-disruptor-to-bestie-how-instructors-are-learning-to-leverage-moocs ]