Interesting discussions about MOOCs at yesterday's CUNY IT Conference. Unfortunately, the panelists were not asking the right questions about MOOCs. They should be analyzing MOOCs as a MEDIATED learning experience, not as an equivalent to in-person learning. The MOOCs I've audited were all one-way, video and reading assignment based with assessments consisting of multiple choice questions and special projects each week, of which only a few were discussed. Interactions happened between participants in chat rooms or meet-ups, with little or no direct interaction with the instructor. A MOOC learning experience is more like reading a textbook than attending a lecture or symposium.
Another way to look at it is, What
would Socrates have said about MOOCs?
Socrates: You know Phaedrus,
that's the strange thing about a MOOC, which makes it truly analogous to
painting. The painter's products stand before us as though they were alive,
but if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. It is the
same with a MOOC; they seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent,
but if you ask them anything about what they say, for a desire to be
instructed, they go on telling you just the same thing forever. And once a
thing is put into a MOOC, the presentation, whatever it may be, drifts all
over the place, getting into the hands not only of those who understand it,
but equally of those who have no business with it; it doesn't know how to
address the right people, and not address the wrong.
Plato. The Collected Dialogues of Plato: Phaedrus. (New
University Press, 1961), p. 521.
In fact, what MOOCs are is a rear-view
mirror attempt by educators to create the mass audience for education on
the web that emulates the structures of the old electronic media. Finally,
educators are figuring out how to use the media ecology of television to
deliver academic content to numbers of viewers rivaling television or radio
in their prime. Can advertiser support for MOOCs be far behind?