Thursday, April 04, 2013

The MOOC as a Vehicle for Learning: Observations and Conclusions


Summary with speakers Malcolm Brown, Veronica Diaz, Michael Feldstein, Phil Hill

Phil: There has been a very rich discussion about the different reasons for participating in MOOCs, the variety of people participation in MOOCs.

I’ve also been interested in the channels of communication here, there’s been an active discussion in the chant, on Twitter, the blogs.

Veronica: a lot of this reminded me of what a speaker called ‘revolutionary innovation’ that should make up 10 percent of our portfolios, not to make a profit or replace existing things, but to learn. That’s a perfect way to think about the MOOC: learning about learning, research about learning. Maybe for the moment we can be OK with that being the value of the MOOC.

Michael: Thinking back to the cMOOCs, I always though the purpose was to impose the minimal amount of structure, to raise the possibility of what can be done. But something shifts when you’re talking about MOOCs for credit. Now we’re back to talking about getting what you pay for, which is the degree. The difference between having a satisfied conversation with a biologist about what they do and working side by side with that person in the lab. I heard people ask, is it learning, and the answer is, maybe it’s not the same but it’s fine – but if it’s a degree program, is that enough.

But I also think, if you’re a school, and you’re spending money, you’re not sure how much, and you’re not sure will lead to the core mission you’re funded for, and if on top of that tuition is going up and classes are harder to get into, then you have to ask whether it’s an ethical decision to spend that money. There isn’t a right or wrong as to whether MOOCs are worth the investment, but you have to be clear about it.

Question: what is the trajectory here?

Michael: what we heard here in contrast to the uncertainty was a lot of confidence and enthusiasm about MOOCs as course materials and part of the course environment. I love the term from Stanford, the ‘distributed flip’. Right now schools are struggling with bottleneck courses, increasi8ng lecture sizes and decreasing quality – to engage in a conversation with each other about how we can increase the quality in a way we can afford by collaborating and doing some classic flipping, and yet still have support at the home institution. If that also results in the cost of course materials coming down, so much the better.

Veronica: one we move away from institutional limitations, all kinds of limitations – payment, platform, credit – then we can focus on what works best – and then we can look at things like disaggregation of the course, modularization of the course, etc.

Michael: sure, one of the greatest services MOOCs have provided has been to reawaken the imagination. Let’s invest in trying some things, lift some constraints and see what happens.

Phil: It’s already having an impact. It’s really people rethink and get past the Carnegie unit, the seat time.