Last week The Atlantic posted “Overblown-Claims-of-Failure Watch: How Not to Gauge the Success of Online Courses” that generated some discussion that I followed.
I agree that the hype over 160,000 students registering but only 35,000 people “finishing” the AI course (which arguably launched the current hullabaloo about massive online courses) is just that, hype. It’s sensationalistic. Given the publicy reported numbers, it’s probably better to say 160,000 people (including me) were interested enough to register just to see what the AI course looked like. It’s probably more realistic to look at those that finished the first week activities or even the first quiz and look at how many of them persisted to see the so-called “drop-out” rate. And I also think it’s reasonable to ask, did they really drop out? All of this underscores the importance of understanding the motivation of those 160,000 people that expressed interest, why would they have said they were there and what should we be doing to support them?
As I’ve said previously I believe there are indeed different (additional?) affordances necessary when “teaching” a class for 100,000 students or even 10,000 students that aren’t needed in classes of 30, 100 or even 500. To paraphrase another quip, “It’s the scale, stupid.” Working at scales of 10,000 or 100,000 concurrent students is *much* different than working at the scale most faculty do today. I’ve also said that if there’s a mistake in a traditional class, it’s easy to communicate with the 30 or 100 students in the class. At 10,000 students it’s much harder to make sure the communication loop has been closed for even the smallest unclear item. And what really intrigues me is that at 100,000 students there are also lots of opportunity (and that’s an important distinction I think) for research and testing.
Now for the articles:
Overblown-Claims-of-Failure Watch: How Not to Gauge the Success of Online Courses: Rebecca J. Rosen writes, “Online courses are experiencing sky-high dropout rates, and that’s probably a good thing.”
(via Google Alerts)
Dropping Out of MOOCs: Is It Really Okay?: Audrey Watters ends with:
“If I drop out of this class, is it really an indication that it is “all praise the MOOC dropout, our best indication yet of system just beginning to find its footing”? Is it a failure on my part? On the part of the course? On the part of the instructor? The content? The platform?
No one will know. And more troubling, no one is really asking
And I like this comment by Keating Willcox:
“The real breakthrough is not the MIT MOOC. The real breakthrough is the MIT approach of tutoring to make sure all students pass calculus. If you are at MIT and can’t pass calculus, you attend the tutoring sessions and learn calculus by personal instruction from a squad of grad students. No fails, or at least, very few.
A good MOOC would have the option of a weaker student being moved, perhaps at some expense, to a daily or bi-weekly SKYPE session with a…..wait for it….real person, who would tutor, motivate, inspire, and criticize the student to do that day’s assignment.
A real MOOC would have weekly flash cards for self assessment. A real MOOC would require class notes, handwritten, as part of the weekly written assignments.”
“[The] founders intend to use their experience with EdX courses and the data they glean to do real pedagogical research into how students learn. Of course, that aspect of the experiment may also be a form of hype at this stage, too.
(via Google Alerts)
Udacity Courses Drop-out Rates: A discussion by members following Statistics 101 at Udacity.
(via ST101 Discussion Forum)
P.S. I am “taking” the Udacity Statistics 101 course for two reasons: (1) to “see” what it’s like to take an Udacity course (in their current incarnation) and (2) to learn a bit more about Statistics. For (1), after about 4.5 of 6 weeks of work completed, there are some interesting and frustrating things about the instructional design. For (2), I don’t believe that I’m going to know a lot more about statistics than when I started–it has to do with (1).