University education: maturing of the MOOC?

Even the largest university lecture hall can only squeeze in a couple of thousand students, so addressing her remarks to an audience of 40,000 was, British-born, California-based Professor Jo Boaler admits, a whole new teaching experience, The Telegraph reports.

Known and venerated by many classroom practitioners and parents for her pioneering approach to maths education (as set out in her bestselling book The Elephant in the Classroom), Boaler has recently had her first experience of online teaching by Mooc.

The Mooc, or Massive Open Online Course, is currently the hot topic of debate in university circles. For some it is the hi-tech way forward in higher education – The New York Times labelled 2012 “the year of the Mooc”. There are even those who predict it will one day replace traditional university face-to-face tutorials and lectures.

For others it is an overhyped bubble, the latest in a long line of e-fads which promise cheap, mass-market, degree-level qualifications via the internet, but which have so far been exposed as “a triumph of marketing over content.”

“I taught a class of freshmen last year,” says Boaler, professor of mathematics education at Stanford University. “I helped undergraduates develop a new approach to math using research on the brain and how people learn. It was great, but I wanted the ideas to get out to many more people.”

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