Friday, December 6, 2013

Harvard's report on MOOCs

Harvard Magazine posted an article yesterday about recent discussions and reports about MOOCs and the university's participation in them. One thing that I noticed:
REPORTING TO the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) at length for the first time since he was appointed vice provost for advances in learning last September, Peter K. Bol highlighted shifts in the landscape for the much-publicized massive open online courses (MOOCs). At the December 3 faculty meeting, Bol noted that:
  • People who register for free MOOCs, like those offered on edX, differ from conventional students, and are not using them like conventional courses.
 Well yeah! I've mentioned before that MOOCs are not comparable to traditional college courses because the people enrolling in them have a variety of goals for the course. Traditionally, college courses are part of a whole curriculum whose aim is to educate students in certain relevant fields, and a specific discipline. These students are usually of the same age, have the same goals for each course (learn enough to move on/get a good grade), and are peers in relation to the discipline. With MOOCs? Sure, a good portion might be these traditional students, but some may be experts in another field who want to get a better grasp of this related subject, a high school teacher who is looking for good applications for their classes, another college instructor/professor who wants to see how the course is taught, etc. You cannot compare completion rates of traditional higher education institutions with MOOCs, its like comparing malus and citrus.