Interaction between students and instructors remains a key challenge with MOOCs, though Gates did note that they are capable of interactivity in a way that was unthought of for online video lectures a decade ago.
Gates suggested a hybrid model, not unlike the idea of the “flipped classroom,” were students take advantage of a MOOC’s video lectures and worksheets, but then still come into a physical classroom after.
“Good technology does free up time,” he said. “In some ways, it doesn’t make sense that lectures are done over and over again.”
Brown admitted he could see this type of model working with some students, particularly for core courses like college algebra or English, but it would still require a MOOC to be centered on the needs of the individual.
Community college students are simply not the same as those at four-year universities, he said, and the instructional methods have to differ.
“The long and short of it is, it’s a little premature to know exactly how MOOCs will help community colleges and our students,” Brown said.
Follow Jake New on Twitter at @eCN_Jake.