The problem with current-generation MOOCs

MOOCs, or massively open online courses, is a platform for knowledge delivery. In their current iteration, they are lectures and videos and assignments placed online. MOOCs have been hailed as a great revolution in education. I do not agree. The MOOC certainly represents an advancement, if only because resources are available much more widely as a result.

But they are not what they could be.

So, first, why do people think that the MOOC model will revolutionize education? There are several great reasons. (1) They place courses online, where content delivery is much cheaper (a big issue with ballooning tuition prices). (2) A MOOC can be taught by the best professors in the world. The Feynmans and Lewins of the world could be the physics teacher of everyone in America! (3) you don’t need to worry about enrollment issues like too many students needing to take the class. Those definitely represent advancements over certain elements of the brick-and-mortar.

However, it is too reliant on the old model of lecture->practice->test. This is a pretty unengaging model of learning, and regardless of its method of content delivery, people miss a lot of information in this style. Because of that, I don’t see this current iteration of the MOOC replacing the classroom element.

With a few tweaks, I think the model could be improved significantly. What about, for example, a model where tests, practice, and lectures are interwoven seamlessly? Something more like the video game model (for a single topic): instruction -> test -> test -> instruction -> test -> test


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