Here’s why MOOCs don’t work (and how they can be fixed)

Lack learners who have learned how to learn from the content deliverer

The interactivity required for learning is missing. With MOOCs, the process is one way – from the screen to you. The teaching dyad is missing – because teaching is two-way.

Finally, a more general note: are we about to discover that one-way lecture delivery can be dull and un-engaging at elite and revered institutions when a camera is pointed at famous Professor X? This is not a reflection (necessarily) on the content deliverer – but more a reflection of the simple fact that delivering lectures to a video camera is a skill, as different from stage acting is from screen acting.

Lecturing is a kind of performance to an immediately present audience (like being on stage): but doing the same for the big screen is very different. The composition of the invisible supports for stage (think what happens behind the scenes in a theater) versus the big screen (again think what happens behind the scenes in a film production or even a simple television newscast).

And think how badly a camera pointed at a stage production fails.

There is a category error present here: MOOC providers are using stage content for what should be a screen production. Perhaps the producers for MOOCs should be professional television and film production companies, and the material prepared by, but not delivered by, professors but rather by professional actors (unless they have been professionally trained in media delivery).

Shane O’Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research at Trinity College Dublin. This post originally appeared in Shane’s blog