Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology" & MOOC's

There's a lot to digest in this Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology, especially for an administrator interested in supporting and encouraging faculty engagement with online learning. One initial reaction: I was not surprised to see that faculty are generally skeptical of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC's.  Based on my more than casual (but not exhaustive) reading, I offer four general observations about MOOC's:

First, as currently offered, we do not know whether MOOC's result in learning, or if they simply sort participants based on their pre-existing knowledge.  Do those who successfully complete a MOOC do so because they already knew (or mostly knew) the material, and the MOOC's assessments simply validate this? Or is there real learning going on?  Relevant to this point is a report that a majority of MOOC participants already have a post-secondary degree. 

Second, most of the MOOC's I have read about are in fields where most (perhaps all?) learning outcomes can be assessed through objective, computer-graded questions.  As computers are trained to reliably grade essays and give feedback, this could change the MOOC landscape.

Third, if MOOC's are to be used for credentialing or academic credit, schools must address concerns with verifying the identity of online students.  

Fourth, a sustainable business model for MOOC's has yet to emerge, other than to serve as a method of employment screening for some employers. Here is a quote from Inside Higher Ed:

Udacity has suggested that it might double as a headhunter for companies that might like to hire some of its more impressive students. Instead of simply selling those students credentials that they can list on their resumes while looking around for jobs, Udacity would offer to match students with companies that have enlisted Udacity as a talent scout. (The company has already hired a full-time jobs counselor to lay groundwork with potential employers.) Udacity would take a commission for each successful match, same as a headhunter.

I plan to keep watching MOOC's carefully.  Disruptive innovations can (and often do) come from unlikely places, and so a keen eye will be important to identify the possibilities as MOOC's evolve.

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