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MOOC Discussion Among Professors

Last week at the ACM SIGCSE conference for computer science educators, I attended both a panel and a keynote on MOOCs. The panel had CS professors from different universities and the keynote was from John Etchemendy, provost at Stanford. Here are some of the ideas put forth:


1200 AD: There are 4 universities in the world.
1400 AD: There are 24 universities in the world.
1450 AD: The explosion of universities because of the printing press
In 2008: Stanford Engineering released CS 1, 2, 3 videos; they had a 5-10% completion rate.
Fall 2011: The start of MOOCs when Stanford put up 3 CS courses.

These online courses now follow the pattern where the instructor demos on video, and then provides an opportunity for the student to do it.

MOOC vs. F2F:

MOOCs are bad at: motivation, coaching, help, discussion, evaluation.
MOOCs are good as interactive textbooks.
Face-to-face is the artisanal way to teach and learn.
Weaker learners do not do well online.
MOOC completers are advanced learners.
MOOCs provide info, they don’t deliver education.

We should not replace face-to-face courses with MOOCs, because many students need the social structure of <Campus, Schedule, Teacher> in order to do the work required to learn.


Cost of higher ed is rising because of faculty pay, legal and dental services have gone up with the cost of higher education also. This is because education hasn’t seen an increase in productivity since 1450. We need to raise the student/faculty ratio but keep the same quality and level of assessment/feedback.

One way to be more productive is to not waste faculty time delivering the same lecture over and over again, when the students disengage when they are not active anyway. What if we could take our grading time and/or our lecture time and spend it with students, helping them solve problems?

Etchemendy doesn’t think a MOOC will ever substitute for an undergraduate education nor a PhD program. But it could deliver the education required in the middle professional level.

It appears to me that some universities think they will license community colleges to teach their courses. What do you think of that?

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