Harvard and MIT Go MOOC

May 6, 2012 | 1

Harvard and MIT are partnering for an MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) known as edX. Currently, similar offerings are available from Stanford, Princeton, UPenn, and the University of Michigan. Unfortunately edX and others like it will grade student papers by utilizing “crowd-sourcing” and “natural-language software.” Oh, geeze. Not that again.

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One comment:

  1. As many of the experienced educators have pointed out, this heroic effort to fund a new approach/technology is another glaring example of focusing on the wrong thing! Any student of systems engineering, or the systems approach to problem-solving will understand that focusing on the result or symptoms is useless. Look for the cause, not the result. Fix the source/cause instead of wasting resources to treat the symptom.

    MOOCs is bad. MOOCs is today’s example of once again jumping on a new technology to apply a non-educational solution to education problems without identifying the problem. This attempt is no different that long list of historical failures to fix education with technology.
    1. Radio (broadcast lectures)
    2. Educational/Training Films (often another boring lecture)
    3. Educational TV (watch other students endure boring lecture)
    4. VHS classrooms (same as above, but can be mass-distributed to bore thousands)
    5. early attempts at “eLearning”
    a. read text script of boring lecture
    b. programmed instruction on a PC
    c. PowerPoint on demand
    6. YouTube, iTunesU, and other variations of boring-lecture-on-demand
    The problem shared by the colossal failure of each of these to solve education’s problems was two-fold: (1) the problem was adequately identified, analyzed and treated, and (2) the focus was on the technology rather than the quality of the content or the effectiveness of its delivery.
    After viewing several examples of iTunesU, Udacity, and the Harvard/MIT edX project, I see nothing new but a repeat of the VHS classroom. Been there, done that, it was boring and nearly non-educational. This mode of content delivery is lacking the basic requirements of an effective and efficient learning situation: content interactivity, peer-peer interaction, student-teacher interaction, drill-and-practice, monitoring and feedback, and assessment of actual learning.
    A closer analysis of some these new MOOC-oriented organizations reveals a surprising lack of instructional design expertise. A couple are being built solely with software programmers (some with educational backgrounds), but none claiming educational technology, psychology, or design credentials.
    Stop the funding until someone addresses the basic questions of: (a) what is the educational goal, (b) what is the educational philosophy or strategy that will be employed, and (c) how will success be measured?

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