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What Professors Can Learn From "Hard Core" MOOC Students

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the get-your-learn-on dept.

Education 141

jyosim writes "Hundreds of people are spending 20 or 30 hours a week just taking free Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. They're not looking for credit, just the challenge of learning. This Chronicle of Higher Ed story looks at whether these MOOC addicts think they're learning as much as they would in a traditional college course. From the article: 'Consider Anna Nachesa, a 42-year-old single mother in a village near Amsterdam who logs on to MOOCs for several hours each night after dinner with her teenage kids. She has always found TV boring, she says, and for her, MOOCs replace reading books. She is a physicist by training, with a degree from Moscow State University, and she works as a software developer. "This stuff is actually addictive," she says. In some ways the lure is like Everest: Some want to climb it to see if they can. "The Dutch have the proverb 'If you never shoot, you already missed,'" she says.'"

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What is it I am supposed to learn? (3, Interesting)

Latent Heat (558884) | about a year ago | (#43775135)

OK, people are "addicted to MOOCs" much as people are "addicted" to TV or to the Internet.

How does this help me teach people to be engineers?

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#43775173)

The first thing you should learn is to read the article. There, you will find these four points listed:

1) Clarity and organization are key.
2)Professors are the stars (the university name isn't so important)
3)Text still matters. (because videos aren't searchable)
4)Passion matters most. (you don't have to be a pretty movie star)

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (5, Insightful)

sanman2 (928866) | about a year ago | (#43775277)

5) It's all about ACCESS

There are plenty of people out there who have the desire and the ability to improve themselves, but for one reason or another can't take time out of their lives to leave their jobs and go back to school. The MOOC is the great new solution to their dilemma. Now anyone and everyone can get access to training and education, to better themselves in their spare time. After all, we're now in the 21st century, and shouldn't have to be constrained by old limits on things like classroom size, etc.

What's needed going forward, are paths to accreditation so that MOOC students can merge themselves into the mainstream of education and qualification. Hey, as long as a student can genuinely pass the tests and examinations which authentically gauge their prowess, then why should it matter whether they got their education face-to-face in a classroom vs online? In the end, it's knowledge and ability which count.

We may be entering into a new age of "Social Learning" whereby our social circles and our study groups become one and the same. We will increasingly spend more of our time communicating with study peers through whom we can advance our knowledge, so that any ultimate interaction with the instructor will be more efficient and productive.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43775339)

Plus you don't have to deal with the politics and 'personalities' that inevitably emerge in third level institutions. Just pure knowledge baby, that will do nicely. It's also very exciting in terms of collaborative learning, after a few cycles you'd be left with something like stackexchange and TAs would be redundant. I guess eventually a lot of professors would be too if they were to release texts or videos and compete with one another. The best and most informative would rise to the top, and the energies of the rest could go into research, which is where they should be going.

Children being born today will have access to far more and better education than any generation ever, if we don't mess it up in some way.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (4, Insightful)

Miseph (979059) | about a year ago | (#43775765)

"Children being born today will have access to far more and better education than any generation ever, if we don't mess it up in some way."

No need to worry, we will definitely find a way to mess it up.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (4, Insightful)

zmaragdus (1686342) | about a year ago | (#43775727)

One of the bigger problems with accreditation is the scope of examination needed to determine suitability for official certification. If I were to certify someone as an electrical engineer without any knowledge of what their education was, I'd want to spend a full week working one-on-one with them to fully evaluate their knowledge and skills. This is why universities get accreditation from a group like ABET [abet.org] . Now you can tell graduates to have several years of work experience, take the FE and PE exams [ncees.org] , and be able to tell with a reasonable amount of certainty whether or not the individual is worthy to be called a Professional Engineer with a good efficiency in the process (vs. the aforementioned one-on-one situation). Does anyone have any better ideas for large-scale, education-irrelevant accreditation?

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (2)

Miseph (979059) | about a year ago | (#43775805)

Sounds like a great reason to bring back the middle class trade guild as a meaningful part of professional development.

You can get in so long as you can pass the tests, then once you've worked under an experienced professional with genuine, demonstrated knowledge of how things happen in the real world for a period of time you get the stamp of approval to strike out on your own, and eventually take neophytes under your wing as well.

Of course anything even remotely resembling a union is "communist", so we can rule that option right out.

What is it I am supposed to learn, Doctor? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776333)

Then doctors are communist then.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (3, Insightful)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | about a year ago | (#43776445)

A: Of course anything even remotely resembling a union is "communist"...

Maybe. But it doesn't really matter.

B: ..., so we can rule that option right out.

Wrong. Why? Because what described in your first and second paragraphs doesn't resemble the unions of which you speak of in the last. (B) has nothing to do with (A). Therefore, you SHOULD be happy that what you described is not only possible, but quite preferable for many professions. For some reason I doubt you will be happy though.

And just so you know, electricians already do this. And plumbers. You know, those middle class, hard working professionals. Even independent contractors go through the same process for these professions. The practice isn't gone. Again, you should be happy with me pointing this out, but I doubt you will be.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (1)

nine-times (778537) | about a year ago | (#43776217)

I think there is a large question in there: To what degree do we feel like we can forego the standard educational requirements and simply allow people to learn by whatever methods, and take tests to prove knowledge/ability?

To take it to an extreme, should we allow anyone to become a lawyer if they can pass a Bar exam? How about allowing someone to be a doctor just by passing a series of medical exams, but without going to med school?

Is there a value to sending people to school beyond testable knowledge? That's a big question.

doctors can just get into med school with out need (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43776597)

maybe doctors can just get into med school with out needing a full 4 year bs / ba. Why not an 2-3 year aa / as and then? (mix years 2-4 into med school) Also MED school does have a residency part that is basically an apprenticeship.

standard educational requirements in places like IT need have some kind of hands on tech / trades part to them maybe 2 years MAX up front class room. And then have apprenticeship part with on going classes that are not tied down to the college time table.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#43777391)

Is there a value to sending people to school beyond testable knowledge? That's a big question.

No, because the obvious answer is yes. But do you have to lump it together with tests to measure specific knowledge? I've had years of regular full time onsite university education, if what I need is to prove my ability in a specific topic then that should be possible without requiring a meager and largely irrelevant addition to my general interpersonal skills, particularly if my available hours, location or other duties make it impractical or impossible. At least anything that can be reasonably accomplished through exams and exercises, I don't really see how we could let loose doctors and lawyers without real world experience with real patients and clients which necessitates a controlled training program. Most fields are not like that though, if it's all on paper or computer or with inanimate objects then you should be able to read yourself to a degree in most STEM fields.

IT / Tech needs an apprenticeship system mixed wit (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43776561)

IT / Tech needs an apprenticeship system mixed with maybe some kind of reworking of the certifications systems in place now. (maybe add more common stuff with less vendor based certifications and regroup vendors stuff)

STATE government National "license" stinks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43777283)

I have two problems with the present "model" of Engineering "registration" in the USofA (see Feynman):
1) it is a STATE not NATIONAL level registration for a work area based on laws of physics and chemistry which do NOT vary based on the governmental jurisdiction, and NOT "man-made" statutes and rules based totally upon the opinions of a transient majority (I found the NCEES record to be totally useless when I was 'required' to become registered by another state because that model is based on corporate "supervised" NOT individual contract sole provider practice, dropped the NCEES record because it does NOT bypass having to complete the entire reference package anyway);
2) ABET is based on a model of totally government controlled education, which must end [period - end of statement].

Many moons ago Mr. Newt gave a speech in which he identified that technology based economic structures will by necessity rely upon skill certification not education certification, an interesting conceptual change.

For further discussion - look up Scientific American - Software's Chronic Crisis, W. Wayt Gibbs and then ask any working Engineer, not a ladder jumped middle level manager no longer capable of performing the 'grunt work' themselves just WHO and HOW the Arc-Flash and coordination analyses are being design-basis documented and performed in real time. NOT 'professional' by any stretch of the imagination in my not-so-humble opinion.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about a year ago | (#43776285)

It's all about access, but in more than one way. On top of the ability to access courses at all, MOOC greatly facilitate having access to excellent professors. This matters tremendously.

An unfortunate problem with many high-level courses right now is that there are few people competent enough to give them, and even fewer to give them in an engaging, interesting and understandable manner. With MOOCs, you only need one great person doing the course online for everybody to benefit. That's a huge difference compared to traditional classrooms. Flip side is obviously that competition among MOOC professors and providers is a lot fiercer. You can be a top tier researcher in a particular domain and fail to another person that might not have released as many papers but knows how to communicate things to students better. You can be a great teacher but get sidelined by someone who's put a lot more effort into the course and created more quality material.

Basically, MOOCs remove one of the big problems of traditional school systems, in that if a teacher sucks, there's a good chance there's another one somewhere doing the same course better.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about a year ago | (#43776417)

I don't know anyone taking MOOCs who give a crap about accreditation. We're all professionals in that or other fields taking them out of pure interest in knowledge. Accreditation isn't needed, and in fact isn't really wanted- we'd then have to pay, have to care about taking the test, doing work on time (not always easy with a full time job, family, etc). All for credit in some course in a field we have no desire to enter. No thanks.

What I think is needed is actual community building- local communities where we can actually communicate face to face with people currently in the class or who completed it recently, as reinforcement to keep going and to answer questions with better feedback than you get from forums. The first MITX course in EE had this going on well, but subsequent offerings have fallen down on the community feeling- partly because changes to the forum structure made it harder, partly because not being new fewer advanced students took it to help teach.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (2)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a year ago | (#43777089)

Now anyone and everyone can get access to training and education, to better themselves in their spare time.

Just like anyone could previously by reading a gorram book at the public library.

Calling a set of taped lectures a "massive open on-line course" is just another silly bit of overhyping "X, but on the Interwebz!" Yes, it is nice that the net makes more content available more efficiently, but this is an evolutionary step, not any sort of revolution.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775749)

I strongly disagree with 2: the University does matter a great deal, since people don't say "I'm learning Calculus with Dr. Whosit", but rather "I'm taking a calculus course from stanford! Woohoo!" I also disagree with the point below... it's not about access. It's about visibility. If you aren't from a big deal school, then you aren't going to get anyone to take your MOOC.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#43775897)

since people don't say "I'm learning Calculus with Dr. Whosit", but rather "I'm taking a calculus course from stanford! Woohoo!"

How many of those people stay on to the end of the course?

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775905)

I strongly disagree with 2: the University does matter a great deal, since people don't say "I'm learning Calculus with Dr. Whosit", but rather "I'm taking a calculus course from stanford! Woohoo!"

From TFA: "When the students talked about the MOOCs they've taken, they usually mentioned the professor first. They sometimes couldn't remember the name of the university offering the course. [...] Some of them wanted to make a T-shirt with the professor's face and one of his quotes"

If you aren't from a big deal school, then you aren't going to get anyone to take your MOOC.

Also addressed in the article: "Most are driven mainly by curiosity rather than the desire to show off their certificates to any potential employer, and none has paid for a verified certificate."

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43776609)

"I'm learning Calculus with Dr. Whosit"

He your teacher or it in mainly a TA in the big class room where they don't even know your name off hand?

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775191)

People interested in Engineering would presumably be addicted to taking more MOOCs related to engineering. The main thing here is the desire to learn. The people with a strong desire to learn could be directed along a path to learning a set of skills necessary for engineering.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (3, Funny)

Bruinwar (1034968) | about a year ago | (#43775335)

I hate learning. But I do have a strong desire for knowing. I just hate that learning part.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#43775545)

I just hate that learning part.

Don't worry. Tomorrow on Slashdot: knowledge implants (not sure if it'll be electrical, laser or virus).

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (2)

TheBestMerlinEver (2927797) | about a year ago | (#43776099)

the best MOOC out there is the cyypto one from Dan Boneh: http://www.mooc-list.com/instructor/dan-boneh [mooc-list.com] you get a Stanford Professor! Free!

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (1)

suutar (1860506) | about a year ago | (#43776325)

I like his class, though I find it easy to get confused between the 4... levels? types? of cryptographic security. But the algorithm classes from Tim Roughgarden are my favorites.

Re:What is it I am supposed to learn? (1)

TheBestMerlinEver (2927797) | about a year ago | (#43776367)

thanks... boneh's class is not meant for everyone. got to have a good tech bkground.

Get the book? (4, Interesting)

internerdj (1319281) | about a year ago | (#43775177)

"'If you want to become an expert in the field,' he says, 'I think you need the book.'" My first assignment in my current PhD program was to come up with a list of errata from the textbook to submit back to the collegue of the instructor to fix for the next edition. It was one of the most informative assignments of my entire academic career.

Re:Get the book? (2)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#43775219)

Sounds like a good way to increase the professors revenue. Granted it sounds like it was a good learnign experience but I hope that you were at least listed as a coauthor.

Re:Get the book? (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | about a year ago | (#43776103)

He/she undoubtedly got a one-line thank you for "all the hard work" in the preface.

Re:Get the book? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775723)

*colleague

Re:Get the book? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775929)

*College

Re:Get the book? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776911)

Since when does the college the instructor works in have anything to do with textbooks that instructor authors?
*Colleague makes more sense.

Make sure your correction isn't worse than the original (in this case, the fixed version), kthnx.

Re:Get the book? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776237)

Lucky bastard. I write errata half for fun and half to ensure I am actually paying attention to otherwise dry material. I usually get a form letter back from the publisher telling me to go errata myself.

Re:Get the book? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43776639)

so that's why they make so meany updates part of it is a way to test people now how many updates make into the next up date? and why do the questions changes? where the old ones filled with errors?

What "challenge of learning"?? (-1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about a year ago | (#43775197)

When people take courses at their own free will (as opposed to fulfilling a degree requirement), they tend to gravitate towards courses they feel comfortable with; not necessarily know the subject being taught (otherwise, what's the pont?), but something within their comfort zone.

Where's the challenge in that??

How many art students take classes in nuclear physics or string theory just for the "chalnge of learning"??

Re:What "challenge of learning"?? (4, Informative)

AuMatar (183847) | about a year ago | (#43775243)

I'm a software engineer, with some training in electrical engineering. I'm currently taking one on civil engineering. Trust me, its still a challenge- it requires mastery of physics concepts I haven't touched since high school, and some I was never really taught that I have to learn concurrently.

Re:What "challenge of learning"?? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775279)

While I'm not quite a hardcore MOOC user, I usually have three on the go as well as book learning. All of the courses I have taken have been entirely or mostly new to my existing knowledge. Given the time commitment and the nice-but-limited outcome of most MOOCs (an 'attaboy' certificate), it's a waste of time and effort to gravitate towards the comfortable.

About half of my courses complement my IT career (programming, networks, tech history), half don't (ancient history, philosophy, rhetoric, music/songwriting). Anecdotally, those peers I have interacted with have come 'cold' to many subjects, too.

It's been a most productive period of unemployment!

Re:What "challenge of learning"?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775295)

I'm an engineer doing history ones. I guess my comfort zone are the things I'm very interested in, but I still fail to see your point. Trust me - the intricacies of the history of the Duchy of Burgundy in the 1400s or the Holy Roman Empire during the Reformation aren't a walk in the park.

What "challenge of math"?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775297)

How many art students take classes in nuclear physics or string theory just for the "chalnge of learning"??

Chaos theory. Mandelbrot set. Fractals. The Golden Mean. Get a math degree and become a better artist.

Re:What "challenge of math"?? (1, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43775685)

And none of that is of much value apart from niches that are niches for a reason.

Don't get me wrong, I love math and science as well as the arts, but you're just fooling yourself if you think that math plays a significant role in the creation of art. Sure, you can make art that's surrounded by math and there's tons of things like paint drying that you can study, but in terms of composition, the education you get in math is going to be completely worthless.

What's more, math classes are generally not aimed at the people that are likely to be good at art. The extremely linear approach that's usually required by the undergraduate classes are not likely to go over well for creative folks.

Re:What "challenge of math"?? (2)

the biologist (1659443) | about a year ago | (#43775939)

It really is too bad that you have to get to the very high end of math studies before you realize the advancements are made by completely non-linear thinking.

Re:What "challenge of math"?? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43777093)

I'm aware of that, I'm also aware that learning math to be better at art is complete and total rot.

Art is art, and while you might use some math and science in it, the reality is that it's not typically much and it's not worthwhile to spend years studying math in case it might actually be of some benefit artistically. You generally get better at art by studying and by practicing it. Math isn't really something which naturally fits with art. And in most cases trying to bring mathematics to solving artistic problems isn't going to work.

Re:What "challenge of math"?? (3, Interesting)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#43776059)

Mod parent up.

More than you may think – but it depends on the person.

These is less at stake when you take a MOOC. The cost is free to low. Is a subject foreign or difficult? So what if it takes you 2 or 3 passes to nail it. Is the subject not as interesting as you though? Turns out you lack the prerequisite skills? Teaching style is a poor fit? Who cares – drop it. It’s not like a failed grades or student loans will haunt you.

For myself it allows me to dip my toes into a subject at a low cost. Then I can go hog wild.

Re:What "challenge of learning"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775319)

Actually, I'm a software dev (so unusual here), and I take plenty of actually challenging MOOC classes, usually in things that I didn't have access to as an undergrad since I wasn't a major in say Neurobiology or Genetics. My background is CS (surprise!), so there's obviously a little math overlap (stats mostly), but I have no background in molecular biology at all, so I thought, well, jump right in and look it up until I know what's going on. (My undergrad U actually offers a number of classes on Coursera, several of which I couldn't take as an undergrad because they were closed to non-majors or had tons of pre-reqs.)

It's been fun, but I keep getting caught in this trap of signing up for too many interesting classes which then all decide to start at the same time.

At a certain point I'm concerned that it becomes substitutive, that is, it takes the place of things I'd be doing on my own anyway.

The opposite. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775377)

When people take courses at their own free will (as opposed to fulfilling a degree requirement), they tend to gravitate towards courses they feel comfortable with; not necessarily know the subject being taught (otherwise, what's the pont?), but something within their comfort zone.

I am currently doing a course that I would never attempt if I were enrolled in the actual school.

Why>

Because there's no skin off my ass if I fail.

The funny thing is, because there's no pressure to keep the GPA up, I'm mostly enjoying the class. There are times, when I'm just lost and I have to go to the forums for hints - no one give you the answer - and I get to hear from others who are also having problems. We "stupid" people finally get our project done and it's an incredible confidence builder. Yeah, there are grades, but it's more of a feedback mechanism than anything.

A traditional school, on the other hand, IS NOT about learning. It is about busting your balls until you play the game and get your piece of paper. Lot's of busy work because many profs think you need to do a lot of work for the sake of doing a lot of work - I actually had a prof see me in the gym and comment that if I have the time to exercise, then he's not giving enough work.

I am enjoying learning and taking a class AND being challenged for the first time in my life.

School sucks. MOOC rocks!

Re:The opposite. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43775717)

I'd recommend going to a better school if that's your view of it. Because the better schools aren't like that.

The article itself is extremely light on the details and doesn't even cite anybody that thinks that it's somehow superior. What's more, I don't see anything in the article that professors can learn from that hasn't been known for decades.

Re:The opposite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776031)

I'd recommend going to a better school if that's your view of it. Because the better schools aren't like that.

Better school?

Define "better".

Please do.

Re:The opposite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776379)

He meant more expensive.

Re:The opposite. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43777103)

I meant a school that actually values education. I went to an in state college and I didn't have to deal with any of that crap. For the most part, the homework barely came into the equation at all. I can't recall the last time that homework accounted for more than 20% of the grade, if even that. Sure, in those cases you couldn't afford to completely ignore it, but in practice it wasn't ever a crushing workload.

Re:The opposite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43777539)

I meant a school that actually values education.

There is no such school.

Re:What "challenge of learning"?? (4, Insightful)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#43775381)

I don't think I can agree with you on that. People gravitate toward their interests, not just to what they feel comfortable with. That often results in picking up ever more rarified knowledge, or higher skills. In my experience that can provide plenty of challenge. There are also plenty of people that will strike out in a totally new direction just to learn something about a topic or to acquire a new skill.

People often joke about basket weaving classes, but it is a useful skill with a significant knowledge base and many skills to learn. If you care to master all aspects of the craft there is much to learn about different materials and preparation techniques, suitable construction methods with different materials, etc.

Consider the humble pencil in this classic: I, Pencil [fee.org]

Re:What "challenge of learning"?? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775387)

You are missing the point. Why would you want someone who hasn't mastered the calculus to study string theory? I have been taking Physics II through edX.org and it is wonderful. I have my degree in Physics and several years of grad school but I have been working as a restaurant manager for 25 years.What good would a course that is over my head be for me? I am thinking like a physicist for the first time in decades and I find it makes me a better all around person. I have no illusions of standing on the podium in Stockholm any time soon.

99.97% dropout rate (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#43775315)

So out of 3 million people signed up with Coursera, only 900 have completed 10 or more courses, comparable to roughly a year of full-time schooling. Only 100 have completed 20 or more. That's a 99.97% dropout rate after one year.

This isn't going to replace other forms of education with stats like that.

Re:99.97% dropout rate (5, Insightful)

neminem (561346) | about a year ago | (#43775375)

If you could start a semester at college by signing up for every class that looked remotely interesting, show up to the first lecture or two, decide whether it was, then only take the classes you wanted, you'd probably see rates more like that. If you could do that and also college was *free*, then you'd really see rates like that. I'm not seeing why either of those things are bad.

Now, you can argue that an online-only approach is inherently not going to be as good for a lot of subjects as an approach that involves some hands-on work under the direct supervision with a professor you can talk to directly, and I would agree with that argument. But then again, in a lot of (larger) schools, a lot of classes that would benefit from that sort of approach wouldn't get it anyway - they'd get mostly large classroom lectures taught by TAs, in which case, you could hardly argue that's terribly different from a Coursera course, other than in the relative difficulty and cost of signing up for the class.

Re:99.97% dropout rate (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775869)

Coursera was launched April 2012 according to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coursera

So some people managed to finish 10 courses? Nice. Some did 20? Wow.
I took a couple of them in math and they are not easy, I studied math in college many years ago.
It is amazing how the Sheldon types ( big bang) always think they are experts by the power of logic.
I think this is the future of academic study; as soon as they find reliable ways to perform tests it will become main stream.
Spending $100,000 to get an college degree is ridiculous.
For now it is a great way to learn new things and brush on old college material for adults aka people who do not need supervision.

Re:99.97% dropout rate (1)

Palinchron (924876) | about a year ago | (#43775981)

If you could start a semester at college by signing up for every class that looked remotely interesting, show up to the first lecture or two, decide whether it was, then only take the classes you wanted, you'd probably see rates more like that.

You mean you *can't*? That's exactly how I DO study.

Re:99.97% dropout rate (1)

neminem (561346) | about a year ago | (#43776035)

Then you must not have found very many classes interesting... I would've had to have one of those time turner thingies from Harry Potter in order to show up to all the classes. (That and the fact that my school wouldn't let a person enroll in dozens of units in a semester, for several reasons that should be pretty obvious.)

Re:99.97% dropout rate (2)

Quirkz (1206400) | about a year ago | (#43775585)

I've taken about 10 courses, and haven't "completed" any of them by the traditional academic standard of doing all the homework and tests. But I don't care, I'm not worried about that. I'm at a busy period in my life, definitely don't have a good schedule, and tend to get behind. I'm still enjoying the lectures, doing readings as I feel like it, sometimes doing quizzes or assignments, and often wrapping up the class weeks after it's officially over. I'm still 100% satisfied with this process, still feel like I'm getting a lot out of the courses, and try to go out of my way if they give me the option in the post-course survey to explain how much I appreciate what I'm getting, even if I look like a "dropout" to the traditionalists.

Re:99.97% dropout rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775733)

I've signed up for Coursera and am taking a couple of courses. I'm not looking for equivalents of a year of full-time schooling. I already *have* a Ph.D. When you put together undergraduate and graduate time, I spent over 10 years in college - and that's not including the post-doc work. There's no conceivable way that my taking less than five courses at Coursera would classify me as a "dropout". I'm not there for a degree - I'm there because, despite my years of schooling, there's still new and interesting things to learn.

My sense is that's what most people on Coursera are there for. It's the equivalent of auditing and "continuing education" in a regular university, rather than a degree program. The fact that a senior citizen is only taking a course on Viking history and doesn't finish 15 credit-hours should reflect poorly on the graduation rate of the university or the stature of the European History department. If 2.99 million are only there for continuing education, that doesn't mean jack for those 10,000 that are there for actual degree purposes. (Having even that many is somewhat of a stretch - Coursera "degrees" aren't equivalent to a university degree, so why treat them as seriously?)

Finally, Coursera is only 12 months old - why would you expect to have many people with 2+ years of schooling at a school that's only a year old? Given the rate of uptake (most of those 3 million will have signed up only in the past few months), I wouldn't expect to have many who have been around long enough to do a year equivalent of courses.

Re:99.97% dropout rate (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775793)

And these people took 100 courses while probably already doing a full-time job on the side.

The target of MOOCs isn't... or shouldn't... be traditional college students. It's those parents who are working who keep saying "one day they'll go back to school and take night classes". MOOCs make that "one day" today.

Re:99.97% dropout rate (1)

citizenr (871508) | about a year ago | (#43776849)

Define dropout.
I signed up for >30 courses in total. I have 7 certs of accomplishment, all with 95-100% score. The rest I didnt bother doing quizzes/assignments, I downloaded all the videos and learn at my own pace for myself, I dont need any more diplomas.
I only failed in one class I was doing quizzes/assignments, by 3% (at first they send me cert and said i passed, but later revoked it after recount/quiz fixes or something).

Im sure I am destroying their stats taking all those courses and not doing any "work".

Wide access, high standards and high completion .. (1)

Robert Frazier (17363) | about a year ago | (#43777495)

Easy access, high standards and high completion rate. Pick any two.

Although, I teach at a place with high standards and a high completion rate, but with a very selective admissions policy, I think that another good strategy is to have easy access and high standards, even at the cost of a high completion rate. That's what these sort of courses might provide.

I'm not keen on dropping standards in favour of easy access and a high completion rate. However, there is always a pressure to improve the completion rate so that the money looks well spent. Completion rate is easier to measure than, say, how much the course helps the people taking it to flourish.

Best wishes,
Bob
 

What about stuff that poor fit in to an traditiona (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43775317)

What about stuff that is a poor fit in to an traditional college setting.

Stuff that is a better fit for hands on?

Stuff that is better in a trade school / tech school setting.

traditional college needs to change as well.

Re:What about stuff that poor fit in to an traditi (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#43775555)

Stuff that is a better fit for hands on?

The Internet is the greatest thing for Do-It-Yourselfers since power tools were invented.

Re:What about stuff that poor fit in to an traditi (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43775669)

be nice if you can get a credit or an badge that means something with not having to go collgle for 2-4+ years with big bill and lot's of theory.

Re:What about stuff that poor fit in to an traditi (1)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#43776233)

be nice if you can get a credit or an badge that means something with not having to go collgle for 2-4+ years with big bill and lot's of theory.

Issuing credit/"badges" for technical fields makes no sense, if you lack the common vocabulary to be able to communicate with your peers about complex topics, or lack the theory necessary to be able to generalize a solution and apply it to an entirely new problem.

If you are talking instead about society valuing blue collar labor less than white collar labor, then the educational system or trade school system is not the place to fix what society does or does not value, or for something it values, how highly. It's like looking under a streetlight for your contact lens that you lost in the alley "because the light's better".

I personally do not value blue collar labor, such as road construction, since I believe the infrastructure problem can be solved once by laying down utility tunnels. There's no reason that AT&T needs to come by, rip up my street, and do a half-assed repaving job, then PG&E comes by and rips up the same street for gas lines, and then does a half-assed repaving job, and then the water district come along and rips up the same street for the water, and does a half-assed repaving job, and then the sewer people come along and rip up the same street and does a half-assed repaving job, and then Sprint comes in to lay a fiber optic line, and rips up the same street and does a half-assed repaving job.

And the people doing the repaving each time are the same people the city contracts with to do paving in the first place. These are the same people, who, when it was rumored that there might be budget cuts, guaranteed that they wouldn't be the ones cut by *starting and not finishing* all the scheduled projects on the books for the next two years so that the city would have to keep them on and not cut them so that they could repair all the damage they did from starting the jobs and not finishing them. Note that this was all on *rumored* cutbacks, not the real deal.

You want me to value them, then get them to act professionally; and yes, that includes turning out the lights when they are the last person to leave an office that's being shut down due to budget cutbacks. Anyone here who's ever worked for a failed startup, or a failed established company, can tell you whether or not they acted professionally. Most have.

Re:What about stuff that poor fit in to an traditi (2)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43775741)

Traditional college doesn't need to change. Most of the things people complain about are the result of the changes and reforms put into place over the last hundred years.

Things which are generally better at trade/tech schools are usually taught there for a reason. One of the big problems is that people don't seem to understand the difference between vocational certification and a college degree. The former is supposed to set you up for a specific job and the latter is supposed to set you up to think in an area of inquiry. They're both valuable, but if you go to the wrong one and don't know it, you're likely to be greatly disappointing.

Re:What about stuff that poor fit in to an traditi (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43776465)

but we are putting to much into the college degree and field like tech / IT more trades / hands on are needed. Maybe some kind of mix of the 2 ideas is needed but not 4 years pure class room.

College misses the mark in a few ways. Some people think that CS is one size fit's all, Some degrees have to much theory, With some stuff by the time you are out of collgle when you learned is out of date. Some college professors have been in academics to much and they have little to no real IT knowledge or its very out of date.

Higher levels of degrees are geared to academics.

Re:What about stuff that poor fit in to an traditi (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43777139)

Perhaps IT shouldn't be at college, it should be a vocational program the way that being an electrician or a plumber is a vocational matter rather than one that's taught at college.

But, it's not the level of the degree that determines that, it's whether it's focused on vocational training or on understanding things in a more broad way. Every time the topic comes up there's a bunch of luddites that comes to bash college because it's not laser focused on the job. Well, guess what, that's what college is. If a person wants the focus, then they should go with a technical certification. For those that want the context and some increased ability to move into other areas if need be, that's what college is for.

Self-reporting is inherently biased (5, Insightful)

saforrest (184929) | about a year ago | (#43775325)

This Chronicle of Higher Ed story looks at whether these MOOC addicts think they're learning as much as they would in a traditional college course.

It's been psychologically demonstrated that people who volunteer their time up-front to some activity for which they're not receiving other rewards (e.g. payment) are biased towards finding the activity fulfilling, even if it wasn't really, simply so they don't feel foolish for having wasted their time.

I have no doubt many of these people are learning things and they would probably drop out if they weren't, but self-reporting is no way to measure the efficacy of MOOCs as learning tools.

Re:Self-reporting is inherently biased (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775451)

You are claiming that in order to enjoy an activity, one must first convince oneself that one enjoys the activity.

That's not even laughable. That's just absurd.

Re:Self-reporting is inherently biased (2)

JAS0NH0NG (87634) | about a year ago | (#43775501)

The description you have is sort of backwards. That is, fulfillment is an example of an intrinsic motivation [wikipedia.org] , and intrinsic motivations are one way of getting people to do certain activities. The people who do a lot of these MOOCs have a strong intrinsic motivation to want to learn, what to challenge themselves, and have fun doing so. These are also classic examples of intrinsic motivation.

I think you're referring to cognitive dissonance [wikipedia.org] instead (do a search for "boring task" in the linked Wikipedia article).

Re:Self-reporting is inherently biased (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43775633)

My overall take is similar:
1. I'm guessing these folks are learning stuff. I certainly did when I started watching some Yale's course lectures [youtube.com] .

2. The educational value is somewhere between a History or Discovery Channel bit and an actual college course: I learned a bunch of stuff I hadn't learned before, but I don't by any stretch of the imagination think that I've done the equivalent of an undergraduate course.

3. I can think of far worse hobbies and bigger wastes of time. If you believe, as I do, that education and knowledge is valuable in its own right and not just a way to increase potential earnings and productivity, then at worst these folks are stretching their brains a bit and having more ideas to draw on.

So a worthwhile effort, but probably not the equivalent of the full college experience. Although I'm guessing there are a lot of Open University graduates who would be happy to contest the idea that distance learning can't work really well.

Re:Self-reporting is inherently biased (3, Interesting)

Quirkz (1206400) | about a year ago | (#43775739)

I agree 100%. Many of the classes I've taken have been light to moderate, a couple fairly rigorous, but none of them matched the demands of any of my undergraduate courses (admittedly at a tough private college). The rigorous ones might have come close to a couple of big-lecture entry-level classes I audited at a state university which weren't particularly demanding, but even there I think the total amount of education and challenge still goes to the traditional school.

That said, it is still learning. Engaging, educational, entertaining, and satisfying. I do read nonfiction books on my own, but changing the pace with lectures and quizzes is refreshing. I'm getting a lot out of the experience. How it compares to a traditional college environment is mostly irrelevant for me now; in the future, if they're talking about accredited classes and full degrees in MOOCs, that may be a different issue.

Re:Self-reporting is inherently biased (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776161)

> How it compares to a traditional college environment is mostly irrelevant for me now

This. I don't want an undergrad or master's degree, I already have them. I don't even need a certificate of accomplishment for a MOOCs, I just happen to have curiosity for a wide variety of subjects and like to learn more about them. I used to just read books, but then when I got struck on something I had no one to ask for help. With MOOCs not only do I have a teacher giving me lectures on the subject, I also have forums and study groups to discuss things with other liked-minded people, I have quizzes to test my own understanding and sometimes practical exercises (when it applies).

It blows my mind that some people are so passionately against MOOCs. Of course it's not the same thing as a real college, and there's no doubt it's worse in some aspects (no direct communication with the teacher, not nearly every subject can be taught remotely, etc.) , but also sure as fuck it's better in others (world-wide accessible, free, you only need to put as much time on it as you can/want, etc.).

Re:Self-reporting is inherently biased (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about a year ago | (#43776435)

Have you tried the MITX engineering classes? They were on par or above anything I took at a respected undergrad (UIUC).

Re:Self-reporting is inherently biased (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about a year ago | (#43776327)

To be perfectly honest, I call bullshit. There are many courses at university where I haven't been at any class and just read the book and passed easily. I think those courses (and they made up a significant proportion of all my undergrad courses) would've benefited from being structured like MOOCs instead of traditional courses. Textbooks are boring, rarely give insights and generally are only there to fall back on when the teacher wasn't clear on something. To rely on them entirely can work, but it's a lot tougher than it needs to be.

I think it's very possible to not only equal an undergrad course but even to surpass it. The easy way to test it would be to take exams from previous years and see if the students can complete them. If they can, then they've objectively learned a sufficient amount of material for MOOCs to be surrogate courses. The point is that nothing inherent to MOOCs makes them less adapted to learning than traditional classroom courses.

Re:Self-reporting is inherently biased (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43775761)

That was one of my thoughts, nothing in the article would lead a professor to change his or her practices as there's nothing in the article at all to go by. The students that do well in these MOOCs are probably already doing so well in normal classes that they don't really need a professor. The students that the professors are supposed to worry about are the lower achievers and the middle of the class. Those are the ones where the professor is likely to be able to make a difference.

I'm extremely skeptical that people in general can learn at that sort of rate, there may be a few savants out there that can, but most people can't integrate knowledge that quickly and as a result, I would love to see how much of this they've actually retained after a period of time. My suspicion is that they won't have retained anywhere near as much of it as they would have had they spent more time going through the material and letting it sit.

Don't get me wrong, I think it would be wonderful if it were possible for everybody, or even a significant minority, to learn this fast, I just have a lot of doubts about it.

It also gives professors a chance (5, Interesting)

Fosterocalypse (2650263) | about a year ago | (#43775401)

to teach a niche or particular subject they find incredibly interesting and the university may not sign off on it. For example I took and Algorithms course, and a cryptography course. Both applicable to the CompSci field and degree programs but not really incorporated in the bulk of programs offered.

Re:It also gives professors a chance (3, Insightful)

cryptizard (2629853) | about a year ago | (#43776141)

What kind of computer science program doesn't have an algorithms course?

Re:It also gives professors a chance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43777445)

What? Algorithms and their analyses are a staple in any CS curriculum, although the elementary stuff is often bundled, appropriately, with a data structures course. Cryptography stand-alone courses are more rare, but information security courses are common electives and cover some aspects of crypto.

mis-translated? (2)

JTsyo (1338447) | about a year ago | (#43775437)

I think what she meant was "You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket".

Re:mis-translated? (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about a year ago | (#43775519)

I think what she meant was "You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket".

Yes, but you always save a $1 (or more) every time you don't buy a lottery ticket. ;-)

Re:mis-translated? (2)

citizenr (871508) | about a year ago | (#43776881)

I think what she meant was "You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket".

Actually you win lottery EVERY TIME you dont buy a ticket, but only 1 in few hundred millions if you do buy it.

leaning machine does not scale (4, Insightful)

drwho (4190) | about a year ago | (#43775517)

There's more to education than listening to lectures and taking the final exam (though the Chinese and many European schools don't seem to understand this). College education involves lectures, Q&A, homework, feedback from the teacher, projects, interaction with classmates...all in some personal manner. I am not suggesting that everyone needs one-on-one training as provided by a tutor, but interactivity is important. In mega-classrooms this is impossible. Sure, you'll get graders and TAs, but they often are unable to answer more than the most basic questions. It's not only about receiving information from the professor, it's also about responding back in turn - to improve the professor's understanding of the field, his or her teaching methodology, and to build a repor which lasts beyond the classroom.

For some years now, Wall-street and wannabee wall-street types having being trying to rebuild higher education along the lines of a business, with assembly lines and workers as interchangeable parts. It doesn't work. The quality of education is suffering. There's a race to the bottom as students are taught only how to pass the multiple-choice, computer graded exam. While understanding of certain facts is key, and rote memorization and replay have their value, it is not sufficient as part of a quality education. Small classrooms and interpersonal relations are required. This is best done in the traditional university environment.

Disclaimer; no, I am not any part of this teaching machine, either of the mass-production or hand-crafted ones.

Re:leaning machine does not scale (1)

rastos1 (601318) | about a year ago | (#43776795)

College education involves ... interaction with classmates...

While I'm too far to go out with any of my classmates to pub, I certainly did interact with them. There are forums, IRC channels, e-mails, FB groups, ... While we've never met face-to-face, I certainly could recognize several nicknames after a few forum threads and they would recognize me. For sure you can make more friends (with similar interests) there as here in the woods.

Little to Learn About Mass Education from Outliers (1)

eepok (545733) | about a year ago | (#43775521)

An educator does not deal with driven, curious, and happily intelligent people all day. Her job is instead to take the lazy, complacent, and dull-minded and instill knowledge and analytical ability.

"Hundreds of people are spending 20 or 30 hours a week just taking free Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. They're not looking for credit, just the challenge of learning."

Hundreds, huh? Out of MILLIONS? They are the outliers within the outliers!

MOOC addicts are not the norm.
iPad owners with 4G connections are not the norm.
Slashdotters are not the norm.
AP students are not the norm.

Increasing access to those who already have access will give only marginal gains. If you want to start a revolution in education, focus on the students that regularly receive Cs, Ds, and Fs as course grades. Change THEM and you change the world.

Re:Little to Learn About Mass Education from Outli (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about a year ago | (#43776393)

This brings up a question I've been pondering... What's wrong with lazy, complacent and dull-minded people to just be let to their own devices a bit? In a MOOC framework, they'd have easy, painless access to all require course material, including exercises and a discussion forum when they need help. If they can't be bothered to do it, then sucks to be them.

I'm being serious here: we're wasting valuable resources trying to keep mediocre people from entirely failing, only for them to get mediocre grades that barely give them their diploma so that they can go on to be mediocre employees with brains so numbed and dull that they're basically automata. If we let them fail (yes, letting people fail, the horror!) early on, it could act as a wake up call. I've rarely seen people without any interest in life; usually if they find school boring it's in large part because they're not at the right place. Instead of putting them on life support, letting them fail could make them realize they need to change career paths, and it'd still be early enough for them to do so without significant damage.

The trend right now is that students, especially young ones, shouldn't be allowed to fail. That sets a dangerous precedent, for once you're out of the school system (I consider graduate degrees to be "outside the school system") you're very much allowed to fail and discarded without second thought if you do. It's setting out an entire generation to unrealistic and frankly absurd standards that you can do jack shit and still make it. That sometimes happens, but it's not the norm.

When I decided to go back to school (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775613)

Last year I decided to go back to school 8 years after graduating High School, even though I had made it as a Software Developer in a fairly large company. I wanted to get a CS degree, mainly for added job security. I worked myself up from lowly tech support to the companies R&D group (where I still work,) and there was no way I was going to do that again. Trouble is that the degree program started with Calc I, no pre-calc unless I wanted to take it without it counting toward the degree credit wide, and I had only gotten up to mid level algebra before then. To top it off, my arithmetic was rusty when it came to unused subjects like negative and fractional exponents, I had no idea what they meant.

Enter Khan Academy and Coursera, I fully completed all of the Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Trig and Pre-Calc sections they had in about 2 months and started college. It was really addictive to have a progress bar showing how close you are to completion. I've since taken and passed Calc I and II, and passed both with a 96 and a 91. Next Semester is Calc III and Discrete Math. The point I am trying to make is that they really are effective tools, and I wouldnt have made it this far without them.

Re:When I decided to go back to school (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776049)

Nice work, congratulations!

Eh (2, Funny)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about a year ago | (#43775725)

Who you callin' a MOOC?

How much do I learn? (3, Insightful)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#43775781)

I love MOOCs (I hate the word mooc when pronounced Mook though) I have little doubt that many courses go into way less depth than a traditional collage course. But my motivations for learning are entirely different than your typical collage student (not all just the typical). I am picking and choosing my courses based upon what I want to know so that I can put it to use tomorrow. Passing the tests in the MOOC are motivated by the fact that if I can't pass them then I haven't really been paying attention. Your typical collage student is learning many subjects where they follow a "flip-card" learning strategy so that they can pound the knowledge into their head long enough to regurgitate it onto a test. Some material will be built upon and potentially kept for life such as the core subjects for the person's degree. So an Engineer will potentially keep much of the math that they then proceed to use over the next few years but few will remember much from their mandatory arts course. The same even within specialties. Accountants who go on to become advanced bookkeepers will most likely forget their stats course material within months of learning it. I have taken and passed 3 courses from Coursera and loved all three. In every case I have proceeded to put what I learned into action. So my guess is that in 1 year I will have taken what they have given me and run much farther than your typical student taking the same university level courses unless that student chooses a path that will put that material in to regular use. But this is the advantage of my being able to cherry-pick the courses I want and need.

But comparing MOOCs to their University classroom counterparts are like comparing Radio to TV. They are different beasties. A MOOC takes a different form of discipline to take it. They have certain disadvantages in that I doubt anyone took any of the courses I took within a 100 miles of my location making physical grouping almost impossible at this point. University courses are taught by whatever professor is at hand, be they good or bad. Eventually some of the best professors are going to do MOOCs (I wish Feynman could have cooked up one as his lectures were pretty awesome) resulting in a faster more efficient learning experience. MOOCs are bringing world class courses to my desk from institutions I couldn't have gotten into. Also the prices for many MOOCs are perfect for people in parts of the world where they have no access to higher education.

But what it really boils down to for me is that a world with MOOCs is going to be a better world for so many people. I suspect that there will be a few casualties but that overall the number of winners will be incomprehensible. Also keep in mind that this is really the beginning for MOOCs so who knows how much better they will get?

Quality (5, Insightful)

BlackSupra (742450) | about a year ago | (#43775893)

An IMDB like database scoring online course quality is currently missing from the equation.

'If you never shoot, you already missed' (1)

nine-times (778537) | about a year ago | (#43776173)

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

-Wayne Gretzky

-Michael Scott

-The Dutch

Re:'If you never shoot, you already missed' (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about a year ago | (#43776829)

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

-Wayne Gretzky

-Michael Scott

-The Dutch

-nine-times

The Teaching Company (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | about a year ago | (#43776259)

Anyone use The Great Courses DVDs from the Teaching Company? I find that stuff pretty addictive. And it's good quality too, they have qualified tutors from real colleges including Ivy League schools.

Re:The Teaching Company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43777113)

I prefer the mp3 versions. Easier to drive when I don't have to watch a screen.

my two cents (5, Informative)

ashalynd (2928053) | about a year ago | (#43777135)

As one of the persons mentioned in this article, I can't help saying that I felt uneasy being identified by my family status (as opposed to everyone else, who were described by their professional affiliation), after all I work in SW dev longer than that journalist has been writing his articles. Didn't expect the Chronicles of High Ed be that gender biased.

In any case, for me main drives for getting involved with Coursera (and a couple of other MOOCs) were professional interests (for the stuff that was related to my work, eg computer science) and curiosity ( for the stuff that was not), combined with some free time I had available. (the bit about addiction was supposed to be a joke, but apparently that's the stuff journalists tend to pick. Lesson learned :) )

I still wonder for how long the whole MOOC frenzy will continue in its current form. One of the concerns (which is often shared by the MOOC students themselves) is that the courses might become "watered down" so that more people will be able to pass them, but there will be less value in taking them. (If everyone wins in a lottery what's the point?). Another worry is monetization and which form it will eventually take (if things come to that point at all).

In any case, there are now some courses well worth taking, even though they can't be seen as the equivalents of the "real" education, it's too experimental for that. What they can do (at least the good ones) is to provide a structured introduction to the field, which is quite valuable if you want to learn something new.

On the other side, there might be some indirect (and hopefully, positive) effect of MOOCs which isn't measured by the percentage of those who successfully finished the course, but we might not be able to see it yet. From the fact that many of the people I know follow these courses now, I would assume that there is at least a demand, and it seems to grow. OTOH, it might be just a fashion which will pass after a while. So the best strategy seems to be using it while it lasts :)

I'm a MOOC addict (2)

LetterRip (30937) | about a year ago | (#43777173)

I'm signed up for almost every coursera MOOC.

I've only officially completed 1, and watched every video for about 30 others, and have downloaded videos 'to watch' for most of the others.

A few things I've found are that

1) Professors seem to like to assign waste of time busy work.

There are lots of classes that require essays or projects where it is essentially a giant waste of the students time. This includes doing videos and presentations for almost any course (a really well taught audio production course wanted every stuent to do a video essentially repeating a subset of the same material he just did. Others have wanted various large scale projects.) Since there would only be 'peer' evaluation of the material, this was all essentially busy work. There are areas where peer evaluation can be useful (some writing with rubrics and such), but mostly it was stuff that wouldn't matter at all from improving learning. Or the amount of learning improved versus the time invested was drastically out of proportion.

The math, science, programming and finance classes tend to 'get it right', only assigning an amount and type of assignment required to understand the material well, not wasting students time.

2) Science, Programming, Finance, Engineering, and Math courses are real courses, courses from Bschool and other sections are often ridiculously simple.

Of course testing and evaluating understanding of computer and science courses is quite easy, but still the quality and type of questions asked in reviews and homework and the type of assignments made sense for the Science/Tech classes; whereas I was sometimes wondering why the other courses had even bother to do a quiz the questions were so ridiculously simple minded.

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  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>