Early MOOC Findings

Now that free MOOCs (massively open online courses) have been around for a couple of years, the organizations offering such courses have found the following to be true:

  • MOOCs need a facilitator to improve the learning experience.
  • MOOCS need a facilitator to improve completion rates (from 10 to 40 percent).
  • In-person facilitated discussions of MOOCs work best with small groups of students (about 15 people).
  • Facilitators do not work for free.
  • MOOCs can be easily replicated by other organizations, creating emerging global competition.
  • The majority of people taking MOOC courses possess undergraduate degrees, not the educationally disadvantaged as originally envisioned.

The hype is now giving way to the reality (though things could certainly change in the future).

What I enjoy about teaching is the challenge and opportunity to give personalized attention to my students’ educational needs, both in and outside the classroom. I say “challenge” because students expect prompt replies to their queries, which I work hard to satisfy. However, students often experience non-responses or late responses from faculty. The incidence of this is far greater than should be the case, and is a great source of dissatisfaction.

Cost pressures and other contemporary issues in higher education mean that pressure to adopt MOOCs and other forms of online course delivery will continue. Perhaps the only way to limit their spread to applications where they are actually a good fit is for faculty to improve the face-to-face learning experience for students and improve their responsiveness to students’ queries.

Personalized attention is a great differentiator, provided faculty do it well and do it consistently (and improve) over time.

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