Talking Teaching

June 3, 2014

more on moocs – go read this post!

Filed under: education — Tags: , , — alison @ 9:31 am

I wish I had more time, because then I could read even more articles and blogs and papers about the things that really interest me, like enhancing the quality of teaching and learning. And there’s some great stuff out there, including a post on Massive Open On-line Courses entitled “MOOCs, student engagement, and the value of contact.” It’s the lack of real interpersonal contact in MOOCs that’s one of their big limitations, from my perspective, and I think the post’s author nailed that concern in this comment:

I think most MOOCs are just textbooks for the Internet age. A brilliantly delivered lecture or a brilliantly written book are both good content delivery systems. But without interaction, feedback, and mutual accountability that is all they can be.

Just one reason to go over & read the full post by chemprofdave.


  1. Thanks for pointing out this blog post Alison. Here is the reply I posted in their blog. I thought I would post it here to share my perspective on this subject.

    I love your phrase ‘learning helper’, I’d always considered myself a learning facilitator. I teach also and while I can see your perspective, I’m concerned that we are falling back into the trap of stereotyping, a danger that we all know is incorrect.

    I have helped create 12 MOOCs now which have had over 500,000 enrolments (I do say enrolments, as we all know that MOOC enrolments does not equal participants!). However the majority of these students have gained a lot of knowledge. In saying that, they have learnt more than facts as in many cases they have had meaningful, social interactions with other students and the teaching staff. Not just during the courses, but afterwards as well, with many of these students being active in a community of practice on social media sites like FaceBook that continues after the course has closed.

    I agree that there are MOOCs that have been created as content repositories and the teacher has been absent for the whole course. However I see face to face classes where the teacher might as well be absent as well, for all the active teaching they do, or the little learning that goes on.

    So in my view, MOOCs and ‘teaching’ are like a city. We all know there are some good suburbs where a thriving community of life, learning and liberty goes on. We also know that sadly, there are some suburbs we would not travel through (perhaps especially at night?) if we had the choice as they are not a nice/safe place to be.

    I think the challenge to us as educators is to work out how we can create a motivational and positive learning environment that will nurture learners to achieve their educational goals. This can be achieved in a MOOC as well as a classroom if we plan well and are inclusive of our learners.

    Comment by Peter Mellow (@kiwirip) — June 3, 2014 @ 12:30 pm

  2. I have recently completed, with distinction, a Learning To Teach Online MOOC run by Simon McIntyre and Negin Miriahi of the University of New South Wales. Those two bent over backwards to provide the personal touch over an eight week MOOC. They watched the discussion forums, had a system to pick up the most frequently asked questions, and each week commenced the next week’s activity with a video in which they addressed those common questions, usually by referring by name to the contributors. They encouraged the use of Facebook and Twitter, as well as the discussion forums. They frequently popped into the discussion forums to answer questions, although members of their team also did this. It was a big MOOC with over 20,000 originally enrolled, but around 4,000 actively completing by the end. To me, it was a great example of the potential of even a MOOC to encourage interpersonal contact. I have set up LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter links with several of the most frequent contributors whose posts I had really enjoyed.

    Hope this might offset the original poster’s perspective, Ali! (Just popped in here to try and find one of your ‘design a plant’ blogs – did you blog on that? One of my colleagues is just back from a conference in London in which a biology lecturer was seeking ways to foster creative thinking for a new ecological environment, and your ‘design a plant’ came to mind. I want to pass it on.)

    Comment by fergpip — October 23, 2014 @ 12:53 am

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