MOOCs, MIT and Magic

Tony Bates, Let's Talk About Tech, eCOTOOL, International Journal of Sciences : Basic and Applied Research, Jun 27, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Interesting coverage and commentary from Tony Bates of an MIT conference on MOOCs. Not surprisingly, the focus in on xMOOCs, with the key 'innovations' of MOOCs being described as follows:

  • active learning: short video lectures interspersed with student tests/activities
  • self-paced learning
  • instant feedback
  • simulations/online labs to teach design of experiments
  • peer-to-peer learning.

Bates himself asserts that "MOOCs are the consequence of lecture capture technology. This technology makes it easy to move teaching online, but without changing the design of the teaching." And John Daniel demonstrates he knows less than nothing about MOOCs while asserting "open and virtual universities in both developed and developing countries have been providing open and distance learning on a massive scale for over 40 years."

Leaving aside the innovations MOOCs actually brought to educational technology (not the least of with is 'open' without tuition fees), I take issue with this: "It is as if researchers such as Piaget, Bruner, Vigotsky, Carl Rogers, Gagné, and many later researchers had never existed. Can you imagine anyone trying to develop a new form of transportation while deliberately ignoring  Newtonian mechanics?" If there actually were a Newton of education, he could complain, but the researchers he cites are more like the Becher, Gall or Ptolemy of education. And even if an educational Netwon existed, he or she would be overlooked these days in favour of TED stars and political favorites with fancy titles.

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