The Spectrum of Opinion About MOOCs

It’s been interesting to see the incredibly wide variety of opinions about the hot topic of MOOCs the past two years.  As part of a presentation last week at a faculty development conference, I compiled some articles on MOOCs and arranged them from the most extremely “pro” MOOC articles, to the most negative and critical.  I think it’s helpful to be aware of some of the different perspectives people have about MOOCs, and perhaps this might encourage folks to move a bit (just a bit) toward the center from some of the extremes at both ends (who coincidentally both believe that the end of higher education is nigh).

I was prompted to post this also because of an article this week that suggests that Sebastian Thrun and Udacity are also aware of some of the problems with MOOCs, and pivoting accordingly.  As you’ll see from the quotes by Sebastian Thrun below, his thinking on MOOCs has evolved quite a bit in the past two years, while the leaders of Coursera and edX are still staunchly pro-MOOC and discount troubling issues like the extremely low retention rates in their courses, even publishing journal articles that argue that the MOOC “retention problem” is not an issue.

Extremely Pro, Positive, “Disruptive” Articles About MOOCs

  • Lifting All Boats: How MOOCs Can Bring Higher Ed Together – from Campus Technology magazine

  • Revolution Hits the Universities – Thomas Freidman

  • The Campus Tsunami – David Brooks

  • MOOCs Data Offers the Promise of Perfect Teaching – BBC article: “Artificial intelligence underpinning online courses can log every click and keyboard stroke a student makes… Equipped with this information, course designers can adapt their materials, and deliver the ultimate in targeted teaching. Could this lead to the perfect, personalised lesson?”

  • quote: “The thing I’m insanely proud of right now is I think we’ve found the magic formula”  – Sebastian Thrun, Udacity CEO, Aug. 2013 [turns out he wasn't talking about MOOCs per se I believe, but vocational and corporate training courses that students pay for to get certification from employers]

  • quote: “From what I hear, really good actors can actually teach really well”  “So just imagine, maybe we get Matt Damon to teach Thévenin’s theorem,” – Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, Nov. 2013

  • The MOOC “Retention Problem” – EDUCAUSE article by Coursera

  • 5 Myths About MOOCs – article in EDUCAUSE

  • quote: “MOOC education is survival of the fittest. Every student is just one insignificant datapoint while the course is running. Do well, do poorly, struggle, drop out – no one notices. But when the MOOC algorithm calculates the final ranking, the relatively few who score near the top become very, very visible. Globally, talent recruiting is a $130BN industry. It’s “Google search for people” in action.” –Keith Devlin, Stanford math professor and author  [My jaw is still hanging wide open after reading this article on the "Darwinization of Higher Education" from last year.  I wish it was in the humorous category below.]

Pro but Dire Articles about MOOCs, the “MOOCalypse

MOOCs Have Indirect Positives

MOOCs are exposing problems in higher education, which will (hopefully) lead to us addressing them

Houston, We Have a Problem [With MOOCs]

  • quote: “We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product,” Thrun tells me. “It was a painful moment.” Turns out he doesn’t even like the term MOOC. –Sebastian Thrun, Nov 2013

MOOCs are a Step Backward and Ignore Previous Research and Experience with Online Learning and Pedagogy

Sardonic, Humorous Perspectives on MOOCs

Negative, Critical, MOOCs are Bad

Posted in moocs
6 comments on “The Spectrum of Opinion About MOOCs
  1. […] It's been interesting to see the incredibly wide variety of opinions about the hot topic of MOOCs the past two years. As part of a presentation last week at a faculty development conference, I com…  […]

  2. […] It's been interesting to see the incredibly wide variety of opinions about the hot topic of MOOCs the past two years. As part of a presentation last week at a faculty development conference, I com…  […]

  3. […] It’s been interesting to see the incredibly wide variety of opinions about the hot topic of MOOCs the past two years. As part of a presentation last week at a faculty development conference, I compiled some articles on MOOCs and arranged them from the most extremely “pro” MOOC articles, to the most negative and critical…http://www.scoop.it/t/easy-mooc  […]

  4. Arjun Chaudhary says:

    Nice article Doug — great to have all the media sentiment in one place. I’ve noticed though that there’s a huge gap in the discussion regarding vocational MOOCs, such as recent WISE winner, http://alison.com — it would be great to have the discussion switch to evaluating the value of the workplace training MOOC such as ALISON or udemy.com to move away from the fixation on the higher education and third level element.

  5. […] It's been interesting to see the incredibly wide variety of opinions about the hot topic of MOOCs the past two years. As part of a presentation last week at a faculty development conference, I com…  […]

  6. […] It's been interesting to see the incredibly wide variety of opinions about the hot topic of MOOCs the past two years. As part of a presentation last week at a faculty development conference, I com…  […]

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Doug Holton

Doug Holton

Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

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