In this post I’ve collected and commented on recent reports outlining several professors perspectives on the development of MOOCs, the teaching experience and how the instructional methods differ from traditional courses.
What is it like to teach 10,000 or more students at once, and does it really work? (Kolowich, 2013). Excellent question—and now that Massive Open Online Courses [MOOCs] offered through providers such as Coursera have been around for a several months, we are starting to get data and insights from the professors in the trenches—those that have developed and facilitated the courses with thousands of students. The Chronicle of Higher Education shared results of a survey it conducted in February with professors from higher education institutions involved in teaching a MOOC. A total of 103 professors responded to an online questionnaire that was sent out to 184 professors that had recently taught, or were in the process of teaching a MOOC (Kolowich, 2013). Results are intriguing, and in some cases startling, for example the responses to a question on peer grading [see image below]:
What I found fascinating was the change in professors’ attitudes towards MOOCs after they had finished teaching their own massive online course. Before teaching a MOOC, 29.7% respondents reported being ‘very enthusiastic’ about fully online courses, yet after the teaching experience, 55.9% reported being ‘very enthusiastic’. Hmm. Even the somewhat skeptical group changed their views after their MOOC experience. To read more results from the survey, click here.
Voices from the Survey
Included in The Chronicle’s coverage on the survey results, is a section that shares professors views on online learning, pedagogy and grading. It is an interesting read. To the right is one of the professor’s comments, which addresses a topic that may be worthy of further research. From the last two MOOCs I have completed with Coursera, I too have the impression that many active participants hold at least an undergraduate degree. Perhaps after identifying the demographic profile of the average student in a MOOC, course content and methods could be adapted accordingly. Click here to browse through the feedback from The Chronicle’s report.
The course involved over 600 hours in development and delivery, and the professor of the course, Dr. Roger Barr, invested 420 hours of the 600. The report also speaks of Dr. Barr’s extensive involvement in the discussion forums, as he devoted many hours to answering questions, reading posts and monitoring feedback.
What is becoming apparent after reviewing the reports mentioned in this post, and in conversations with several of my peers through Google+, etc, the time involved in teaching a MOOC is extensive, requiring an instructor’s undivided attention. I’ve heard of one or more professors teaching a MOOC while assuming his or her full teaching responsibilities at the university, which put tremendous pressure on the individual. Also apparent is the volume of upfront work that is required—an extensive amount of time is devoted to preparing the content, materials, instructions for students, and the course home page. There is still much more to learn about MOOCs. It is too early at this point to determine how this format will be most effective for learners, and which instructional design methods work best, but we are seeing emergent patterns and results, which are taking us in the right direction.
- The Professors Who Make the MOOCs, (2013), Steve Kolowich, The Chronicle
- MOOC Completion Rates: The Data, (2013) Katy Jordan
- Who Owns a MOOC?, (2013), Ry Rivard, Inside Higher Ed
- Duke University’s First MOOC review, (2013) Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach
- The Professor’s Big Stage, (2013), Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times