MOOC as the silver bullet

I would like to relate to Alex Kuskis’ comments provided here where he points to:

  1. The unaffordability of the American campus model, based on tuition price increases year after year, with students incurring immense debts, leading to a student loans crisis and financial bubble that will sooner or later burst, just as the housing bubble did. See “A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College”, ; “Universities on the Brink”, ; “College Bubble Set to Burst in 2011”, .
  2. Questioning whether learning happens at all in traditional university education, especially undergrad education. See “Does College Make You Smarter”, .
  3. The traditional university’s crisis of purpose, . 
  4. The university: still dead – Andrew Delbanco’s insightful new book on the history and future of the American college exposes an institution that has no idea what it should be, by Angus Kennedy, .
  5. The fading legitimacy of liberal arts colleges, .
  6. The widespread perception that universities require “fixing”,
  7. The fact that universities are ripe for disruption: .
  8. The ineffectiveness of lectures, still the dominant teaching method in universities: “The College Lecture, Long Derided, May Be Fading”, .

Are MOOCs the silver bullets for education?  Not yet.

There are some positive results here with Udacity, though the experiment has again revealed that MOOCs could be helpful for certain students and learners whilst may not be a panacea for those who need individual learning or support, including mentoring, coaching or tutoring.  Such pedagogy has proven to be effective in traineeship and apprenticeship programs.

However, in an online environment and platform such as MOOCs, one on one mentoring with professors or personal tutors (teaching assistants) could be prohibitively costly and thus not possible.  An alternative is to arrange volunteer or paid tutors and mentors in such MOOCs who could provide the coaching required for novice learners, as I have shared here and here.   There are implications with such approaches, as additional mentoring and coaching may incur fees, and the need of an infrastructure with systems of policy, procedures and protocols as normally present in an institutional framework to assure quality support learning services.

There is also a need to balance between self-organizing nature of networked learning with a focus of autonomous learning embedded with the instructivist mastery learning approach in such MOOCs to ensure optimum learning outcomes.  Many novice learners may overly rely on the “teach, drill and test” sort of mastery learning.  Such instrumental learning is practised in senior high school or entry level college, in preparation of their entrance examination to university.  Though there are merits with mastery learning for prescriptive knowledge and learning on defined curriculum, the mechanistic and instrumental learning associated with the consumption of knowledge would limit their growth and development in critical thinking and metacognitive skills, sensemaking and way finding.

That is where MOOCs providers need to re-vamp their programs with technology as enabler, so as to cater for their learners’ needs. These would further foster new and emerging pedagogy in education, not just a reinforcement of what they are currently offering to their students.

In summary, continuous improvement and innovation in practice in an ever changing world of MOOCs and education.