A View of Obamacare from Raleigh, NC: Live from **La Farine** The Roasterie LXIII: December 30, 2013
Noted for Your Evening Procrastination for December 30, 2013

MOOCs: Hoisted from Comments

Fred M Beshears: The Three Required Tasks of New Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks:

My take on MOOCs is that they're closer to online textbooks than full courses. However, unlike printed textbooks, online textbooks can be seen as more than just supplements to the traditional course. In particular, online textbooks can perform some functions that have traditionally been provided by the instructor. So, MOOCs could be used as a substitute for commercial textbooks by brick-and-mortar schools; and, if this was as far as it went, you wouldn't see much (or any) resistance from teaching faculty.

However, if MOOCs are used as a substitute for the lecture, then you can expect resistance from the teaching faculty. Teaching faculty don't want to innovate themselves out of a job, and they certainly don't want to let technocrats do this for them.

In my opinion, this is an unfortunate but easy-to-understand position. Now, if teaching faculty had some way to know that they could hold onto their jobs, things might be different. So, if the objective of introducing the online textbook is to improve the quality of instruction, then teaching faculty might be more willing to let the MOOC/textbook do the lecturing. The university could breakup the large lecture into small study groups where students could be given problem sets, discussion questions and other activities provided by the MOOC/textbook. And, the teaching faculty could move from group to group interacting directly with the students.

But, it may well be that those who pay for education want to use the MOOC/textbook to reduce the cost of instruction (but hold the quality constant). In this scenario, the lecturer might be repaced by lower paid teaching assistants. Or, as in the case of the Tutored Video Instruction model developed at Stanford back in the early seventies, some well qualified students could be given training to act as study group facilitators.

Either way, my conjecture is that adding the social element of the small, face-to-face study group would go a long way toward addressing the low completion rate problem suffered by full online MOOCs. The sticking point is how to get the on campus teaching faculty to go along.

I tried to implement something like this back at Berkeley in 1988. It was called the High Tech Small Study Group project. Your readers can find more on this (and my idea for funding the development of open textbooks) at:

Two ways to reduce the cost of education. http://innovationmemes.blogspot.com/2013/01/two-ways-to-reduce-cost-of-education.html

The faculty were not ready for this change back in 1988. But, now things might be different.