A recent campus e-mail asked for interested faculty to contact the administration about developing a MOOC, or massive open online course. Rather than traditional online courses at, say, the University of Phoenix, MOOCs are provided to (potentially thousands of) interested students free of charge and bear no college credit. Brad Koch’s* recent argument was similar to that of some of my colleagues. Koch states:
The difference between MOOC’s and liberal arts colleges is like the difference between televangelism and an old-timey tent revival; the message is essentially the same, but the experiences are worlds apart.
When institutions like Georgia College uncritically float along with the shifting tides of higher ed, they misallocate resources and dilute their brand. We cannot–and should not–compete with MOOC’s. We should instead own the value of our unique identity and fill our niche.
Serendipitously, an article by Will Oremus at Slate this week describes the failure of a MOOC on how to successfully plan and carry out online courses. Oremus quotes pupil Jill Barshay’s account of the course, who stated:
Within hours, things were going awry. Neither the “Getting Started” tab nor the “syllabus” tab offered much direction on how to begin the class. I wasted an hour taking surveys on my personal learning style. (One said I was a visual learner. The other said I wasn’t).
The biggest problem was breaking our class of more than 41,000 students into discussion groups. Dr. Wirth asked us to sign up using a Google spreadsheet. The only problem was Google’s own support pages clearly state that only 50 people can edit and view a document simultaneously. I was one of the thousands who kept clicking, but was locked out. When I finally got in, it was a mess. Classmates had erased names, substituted their own and added oodles of blank spaces. …
In the meantime, the video lectures were mind-numbing laundry lists of PowerPoint bullet points. A survey of educational philosophies left me no more enlightened than before I watched it. The readings were a bit better. One of my favorites, Teaching with Technology: Tools and Strategies to Improve Student Learning, linked to a hilarious PowerPoint comedy sketch about the stupidity of reading PowerPoint bullet points. …
Maybe this MOOC should have focused on irony! (Real irony, not the commonly misused meaning of “a strange coincidence.“) For more on MOOCs, Koch provides helpful links to some posts at Orgtheory available here, here, and here, and an article about why the campus experience still matters here.