Thursday, October 1, 2015

Better MOOCs

I think MOOCs are the electric cars of academia: poor performance out-of-the-gate but ultimately better in almost every way. Particularly promising are MOOCs focused on tailored, individualized education recreating "one-on-one tutoring" that students get in office hours. This is an approach that academics should be excited about because adaptive instruction will surely drive up the demand for lecturers. Cost savings to students will come from eliminating the brick-and-morter rubbish (stadiums, amenities, and the admins needed to run them).

I recently witnessed a purely digital course that had some flavor of this new model. Students were engaging with each other, course notes and questions, and the professor more than I've seen in most physical classrooms. One of the great benefits of a pure digital approach is that the professor can easily rearrange everything: a lecture goes to a breakout to a group discussion with a button click. Oh and? There’s no sitting at the back of the room playing Minecraft, etc. (Of course, the quality of the instructor still matters immensely, and in that regard the students of this class were very lucky.)

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