As the hype subsides, it’s time to take a long hard look at massive open online courses (MOOCs). So says Monash University’s Neil Selwyn, an expert in the use of technology in education, Financial Review reports.

Selwyn is one of a band of researchers ­globally who’ve been awarded Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grants to probe the much touted but little evidenced potential of MOOCs to, well, change the world.

The New York Times was spot-on when proclaiming 2012 as the year of the MOOC and things haven’t slowed down for 2013,” Professor Selwyn says. “The general gold-rush frenzy has certainly died down, especially as the realities of student dropout and the quality of these courses is becoming apparent. But people are now clamouring for some ‘real’ evidence.

“Ironically, for what is being touted as the biggest educational revolution of the past hundred years, there is very little discussion of education, learning and learners.”

Hence the Gates’s MOOC Research Initiative, through which grants of between $10,000 to $25,000 have been doled out to researchers worldwide to address what the foundation describes as a dearth of ­peer-reviewed research about MOOCs and their effectiveness as learning tools.

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