What’s right and what’s wrong about Coursera-style MOOCs

Tony Bates, online learning & distance education resources, Aug 06, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Tony Bates summarizes and criticizes the vision of MOOCs as illustrated in this TED video by Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller. I think Bates makes some good points, but also misses a bit. Here's the good point: the myth that MOOCs (as offered by Stanford and MIT) increase access to education. As Bates notes, first, large online universities are already opening access at least as much as these MOOCs are, and second, these MOOCs are not actually granting credentials. But there is a miss, and this is it: the need to ignite a student's creativity "requires the presence of a teacher, either in the class or online." First of all, none of these MOOCs is without a teacher, though in the Coursera MOOCs the teacher is somewhat distant. But second, what makes the Canadian-style MOOCs scalable is that teaching presence isn't generated by direct teacher-to-student interactions, but rather, by (mostly) student-to-student interactions. The model offered by c-MOOCs isn't "sitting at the foot of the master", it's more akin to a self-organizing community of inquiry.

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