There’s so much online that’s written about MOOCs. Disclaimer: I follow many MOOCs (see here) and would love to teach one. What I am getting tired of is the discussion on ‘this is too instructional’ and ‘oh, it needs to be more open’. Education has to be varied; there is room for all approaches, just as long as it fits the educational objectives and aims. Sometimes a lecture works well, so for example being told what a theory entails, and then an example, after which you try for yourself is a perfectly reasonable way to learn things. Sometimes, you can collaborate with students, in real life and online in forums. Peer review is great. We’ve got many many useful tools for teaching and learning. However, it often seems as if ‘both extremes’ of the continuum just want to make the point that ‘instruction is the devil’ or ‘problem-based learning is too vague’. Stop it!
With regard to MOOCs a recent discussion has been about success and fail factors for MOOCs. Some suggest, they even use their own fancy acronym like cMOOC or xMOOC, that some are ‘old pedagogy’ and others are ‘new’. I don’t think so. Classroom discussions, collaborations etc have been in education for centuries, so don’t pretend as if there really is something new under the sun if you look at pedagogy. Of course, there are differences in technology.
How can we explain the success of certain MOOCs, and failure of others (can we even call it a failure, in this time with more media coverage than ever?). I would like to see an analysis that takes into account factors as: difficulty level, feelings of entitlement, no obligations. Sometimes I’ve got the idea that participants feel entitled to a course that is suited for every level. So a more open ‘here are some suggestions for reading, write down what you think’ fits more of the 30k plus participants than a course with difficult maths in it. And people seem to expect that because it’s open and available it should be. I don’t agree. You can just un-enroll. So going to this case, a bit being devil’s advocate: just that thousands of students are happy with the course, doesn’t per se mean it’s a good course, just that a lot of people found it enjoyable, could cope with it, etc. Does the fact that MOOCs make courses more accessible mean that everyone’s entitled to learn? Or is this up to the learner?
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