When your classroom is a global one, filled with well-informed online learners, they don’t cut you much slack, The Conversation reports.

Hundreds of people pore over every element of your course, making well-informed and sometime acerbic comments. Academics who run Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are finding that they can’t afford any sloppy reasoning, one-sided arguments, or narrow perspectives when teaching to a massive global audience.

As academic lead at FutureLearn, a company offering free online courses from UK universities, I’ve seen that this instant feedback can be eye-opening for course designers.

On a university campus, students stick around even though the teaching may be dreadful, because they need the degree qualification. In MOOCs they leave as soon as they lose interest.

So far, much of the debate in the United States about MOOCs has focused on the dropout rate. Typically, just 7-10% of students enrolled on a course from a US MOOC provider reach the end.

But that assumes completion should be the goal of online learning, and that students who drop out early are failures. Much of the early publicity around free online courses focused on them as alternatives to an expensive campus university education. It’s hardly surprising that the simplest measure of failure, student dropout, has been picked up by commentators hoping to burst the MOOC bubble.

It’s now time to move on. The university system, which has seen plenty of social and technological change since medieval times not least the introduction of mass printing, is not going to crumble in the face of free online courses underpinned by questionable business models.

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eCampus News staff and wire reports


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