Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday MOOC News - 11/18/2013

For this week a couple of articles, an announcement by Facebook, and an updated graphic of the LMS market.
  • Open Source Winter 2014 - Facebook's partnership with a number of universities continues with thier Open Source course continuing into Winter 2014. The program offers a bridge between what software developers do with the academic subject of computer science. Increasing the relevance of academic disciplines is always a good thing, especially for Facebook who can scout out new talent before they're even on the market.
  • Common Core State Standards: What do they have to do with Higher Education? - Faculty Focus has an overview of how the CCSS affects higher education, and while helpful if you have never heard of the CCSS, is painfully short and lacks details. How do these standards affect remediation? How can college systems better integrate these standards into their curriculum? What about all these anti-CCSS advocates, are they worth listening to? How do (or could) these standards affect current efforts in OERs, MOOCs, and other innovations/buzz words?
  • MOOCs and Statistics Education: Fad or Opportunity? - AMSTAT has a good article on statistics education and MOOCs, with an interview of Brian Caffo, Jeff Leek, and Roger Peng. I completed Peng's Computing for Data Analysis, and 'audited' Leek's Data Analysis. I've discussed both these courses before, and feel this article is a few months too late. However, the article does provide a good overview of the challenges all three have faced, and how they are attempting to meet them.
  • Higher Education Market 2013 - Phill Hill has updated his LMS market share graph for 2013. A pretty neat graphic showing the evolution of the market.


I participated a bit more in the Big Data in Education course last week. A number of students have complained that Baker speaks too fast, and the course covers topics too quickly. My response:
First, the guy is from one of the boroughs, he's going to talk a bit fast. I myself have recently moved from New York (7 years) back to my native Oregon, and all my students repeatedly ask me to slow down. In this class you do have the option of slowing down the speed of the videos, by clicking on the '-' button on the bottom left. Unfortunately my students don't have it that easy.

Second, the course is about Big Data in Education, not Big Data, statistics, or how to solve your specific research question. Prof. Baker has to assume knowledge about statistics, tools, and other Big Data odds-and-ends to get to the Education part. I have had to brush up on many of the statistical models, tools, and papers he's discussed. 

Lastly, Prof. Baker's passion and commitment to this subject is inspiring. No other Coursera professor is as active in the forums as he has been, he presents ideas concisely with plenty of avenues for us to research, and provides plenty of links, corrections, and documentation. I feel pretty lucky to be able to take this course.
That second point is something I believe is a consequence of the 'student as a consumer' paradigm some are promoting. Students sign up for some of these MOOCs expecting the instructor to cover the exact area they are interested in, at their ability level. "I'm taking this course, right? Shouldn't I get what I want from it?" Unfortunately the 'consumer' analogy breaks down here, they 'buy' these courses with their time and effort, not their money. Not sure how MOOC instructors and providers get around this paradigm, ignore it? "You are getting what you paid for."? Start charging and then provide greater support?

Another bugbear of mine cropped up in the same forum. There was discussion of MOOCs not favoring passive students, and others saying that this is the reason they have such high attrition rates. My response if you haven't heard it before:
This is a line of reasoning I can't get behind. "MOOCs have high attrition rates relative to traditional courses taught by colleges and universities. Therefore they are inferior to traditional courses." What? That's comparing two totally different things, like citrus and malus. The entry for MOOCs is an internet connection, a computer, and an email address. The entry for a college or university is prior education, placement tests, thousands of dollars, and a host of other things. By not completing a MOOC you've wasted at most a couple of minutes reading about the course and signing up. By not completing a degree, you've wasted years, thousands of dollars, and plenty else. Of course attrition rates are different, the more you invest in something the more you will see it through to completion. 

Also, the aims and motivations of students entering a MOOC can be very different. For a MOOC its not a big deal if you pick and choose the topics you want to learn about, and don't see it through to the end. For other students they want that credential. Even others may be experts in the field and want to hear what Prof. Baker is saying. Since there is no 'gatekeeper' for entry into MOOCs the population entering them will be very different than traditional colleges and universities. Again this leads to higher attrition rates, some student's initial expectations are that they won't 'complete' the course, even though they are getting something from it.
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Monday MOOC News comes out every Monday (hopefully) and contains my thoughts on current MOOC news, and a brief summary of the MOOCs I am taking. Feel free to join the conversation.

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