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Interview: Ask President Anant Agarwal About edX and the Future of Education

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the time-to-learn dept.

Education 73

Anant Agarwal is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and the President of edX. A massive open online course platform founded by MIT and Harvard, edX offers numerous courses on a wide variety of subjects and is affiliated with 29 different institutes of higher education. Mr. Agarwal has agreed to take some time out of his schedule and answer your questions about edX and the future of learning. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

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Could someone set up an archive site ? (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#45003273)

The other day I was looking up an open course offered by Harvard that I had meant to try my hands on for the past few years (I know, I know, I procrastinated).

I googled it up and clicked on the link - and long and behold, the Harvard server told me that the course had been deleted, due to some "incompatibility" of the video format and their new hardware, or something like that.

I did not take that course. I have no idea if it was good or not.

What if it was an excellent course ?

Now that that particular course is gone (a few lessons still can still be had on youtube), the opportunity cost for many people does accumulate.

If there was only an archive site for all the open-courses, wouldn't that be great ?

Re:Could someone set up an archive site ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45003781)

It's "Lo and behold" a shortening of "Look and behold"

Re:Could someone set up an archive site ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45006369)

@/. admins or Agarwal
My question: (As a scholar of non-jewish/wasp extract) what are the pro`s and con`s of Aaron Schwart`s efforts at opening libraries for broader readership(?) was not posted for some reason.

Re:Could someone set up an archive site ? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#45005233)

Coursera does a nice job of it...

Re:Could someone set up an archive site ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45021637)

I know, why do today what you can put off till tomorrow :-)

Seriously, a large number of our learners like you just want to audit a course and prefer it to be always available. For that reason, a significant number of our previous courses are indeed offered as "past courses" or "archived courses". You will see this on the announcements page when you go into such an archived course: "This is a past/archived course. Certain features of this course may not be active, but we still invite you to explore the available materials."

To see archived courses you can click on courses at edx.org, select courses, and then select past courses. For example, the justice course from HarvardX is available as an archived course at:
https://www.edx.org/course/harvard-university/er22x/justice/571

In general, we strongly encourage our university partners to offer their past courses as archived courses. A few courses (like the one you tried perhaps) are not offered as an archived course. There are several reasons why a university might choose not to offer their course as an archived course. The next version of the course might have started, and so they might take down the archived course because they reuse some of the questions which have their answers available as handouts. Or, the course might need significant resources to run, for example, special grading servers may need to be maintained, for which they may not have resources.

Re:Could someone set up an archive site ? (1)

agarwaledu (3367141) | about a year ago | (#45021677)

I know, why do today what you can put off till tomorrow :-) Seriously, a large number of our learners like you just want to audit a course and prefer it to be always available. For that reason, a significant number of our previous courses are indeed offered as "past courses" or "archived courses". You will see this on the announcements page when you go into such an archived course: "This is a past/archived course. Certain features of this course may not be active, but we still invite you to explore the available materials." To see archived courses you can click on courses at edx.org, select courses, and then select past courses. For example, the justice course from HarvardX is available as an archived course at: https://www.edx.org/course/harvard-university/er22x/justice/571 [edx.org] In general, we strongly encourage our university partners to offer their past courses as archived courses. A few courses (like the one you tried perhaps) are not offered as an archived course. There are several reasons why a university might choose not to offer their course as an archived course. The next version of the course might have started, and so they might take down the archived course because they reuse some of the questions which have their answers available as handouts. Or, the course might need significant resources to run, for example, special grading servers may need to be maintained, for which they may not have resources.

6.002x (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45003307)

Hi, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

Since 6.002x was the flagship course for edX, do you anticipate it being offered every semester for the foreseeable future? I have wanted to take the course for some time now, but I have been so busy I haven't had a chance. Can I count on it being available at least for the next few years?

professors (4, Insightful)

pyrognat (233814) | about a year ago | (#45003369)

Dear Anant,

I am a young researcher at your own institution. One might think that online courses (such as those offered by edX) will make professors (at least those who teach) obsolete. What role do you see professors playing in the future of education? As someone on that career path, I am particularly interested in your views.

Sincerely,
Nathaniel Stapleton

Re:professors (1)

ediron2 (246908) | about a year ago | (#45004355)

As the head of a university, Agarwal has a vested interest in receiving a continuing stream of cheap grad student and postdoc labor. His views are predictable: mumble mumble 'online courseware' mumble 'disruption' mumble mumble 'grad school good' mumble mumble unicorns rainbows mumble 'everyone should get advanced degrees.'

There's a bit of irony here: edX is at least embracing the destructive change, even if he's impacting the stark unemployment numbers facing outlier-field PhDs today. Compare this to blind denial: my local fishwrap publisher won't shut up about how his paper will survive, but won't change. He thinks he just has to outwait this faddish innernets-thing...

Re:professors (2)

metlin (258108) | about a year ago | (#45006295)

Most professors are hired not for their ability to teach but rather their ability to do research. In fact, some of the "best" professors are horrible teachers -- they may be experts in their fields, but aren't necessarily the best teachers. As such, I would guess that the role of professors will remain unchanged. If anything, it will free up the professors from teaching responsibilities and they will merely provide "support".

Plus, I think that is the way it should be -- some of my best professors have been those who've encouraged my interest in the subject and with whom I've taken classes for research credit. They haven't been great at teaching me, but they've been great to collaborate with on research and just give me a broader perspective on their fields of expertise.

I have since sold my soul to the corporate world, but I am looking forward to going back to school one of these days.

What I would really like universities to do is provide opportunities for part-time PhD programs for those of us who are interested in research, but cannot leave our jobs and relinquish family commitments and responsibilities.

So, here is my question for Professor Anant:

I would absolutely love to do a PhD part-time, but why is it that universities deter this practice? I have found that I accomplish more when I love something and do it out of passion, my other commitments and responsibilities notwithstanding. In many subjects, hobbyists and amateurs have made significant contributions -- so why isn't there an increased focus on encouraging more "virtual research"?

From an academic perspective, you get sufficient education in most master's programs anyway, a lot of which can be completed part-time (and increasingly online). So, why not support research that can be done remotely?

As an erstwhile grad student who decided to not complete the PhD route, I met with my advisor perhaps once a week, and the only time he really cared was during conference deadlines. So, why can't PhD programs be made available part-time and online? With the exception of some subjects (e.g. chemistry, experimental physics, or biology), there are a lot more that can be pursued virtually (e.g. computer science, math, economics, theoretical physics etc).

Wouldn't there be increased enrollment of students in doctoral programs if there were the case? You do not even need to lower the standards -- you can still keep the same standard of admissions, qualifiers, and research criteria. You can provide residency requirements, but support doing the doctoral research at your own leisure. Why is this not the case?

It almost seems like an entrenchment of academic elites to keep the vicious cycle of "doctorate --> post doctorate --> professor --> tenure" going, and minimizing the number of doctoral candidates.

Re:professors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45135205)

For one thing a PhD requires that you contribute an advance in the field. If you are working part time on your research, there is a good chance that someone will achieve the discovery/advance before you are able to finish your work. Another issue is often funding structure - many PhD's are supported out of the research grants of their advisors and/or through teaching assistant positions and there is little provision for part time RA/TA's in the funding structure. In some cases this is a good thing - it is generally not a good thing for PhD candidates if a PI to breaks up the funding for a single RA position into partial support for several students, nor is the idea of having a class taught by several different PhD candidates an appealing one. Given the concerns in STEM (particularly in Bio) about the all too frequent outcome being doctorate --> post doc --> post doc --> post doc... I think your concerns about keeping the number of researchers in a field too small is overblown.

Re:professors (1)

agarwaledu (3367141) | about a year ago | (#45021819)

First, let me point out that professors have been using various forms of online learning for decades, so what edx and others are doing with moocs is simply taking what we have been doing to the next level in terms of scalability and quality.

Think of online learning and platforms to create great online course material not as making teachers obsolete, but as tools for teachers, which will enable them to do a lot more than they could previously with the time they had. Sadly, among the few teaching tools we have given professors in the past few centuries has been a piece of chalk. Blogging sites and online news did not make journalists obsolete, rather created 10 million journalists, while making news much more interactive and exciting. In much the same manner, online learning has the potential to transform education. Online learning and moocs can give existing professors new tools to create additional modalities of teaching. Professors and soon-to-be professors like yourself that are quick to experiment with these new tools, are likely to find success, creating new ways of engaging our millenial generation of students who are perfectly comfortable texting, tweeting, blogging, emailing, moocing, youtubing, slashdotting ( :-) ) and snapchatting.

We have also been experimenting with blended models of education where you combine the best of online and inperson. Initial results are promising. In one these blended model experiments in which we collaborated with san jose state university, the students watched videos, did online exercises and virtual labs on the edx online platform, and then came to class for in-person activity including working in small groups and interacting with the professor to get a deeper understanding of the material. The pass rate for this course went from a traditional average of about 60% to 90% with the blended class. Research by Brewlow et al (you can see paper at https://www.edx.org/research [edx.org] ) also shows that student success in a mooc course was positively correlated with working with an instructor or mentor.

making money (2)

peter303 (12292) | about a year ago | (#45003393)

How do the VCs plan to make back their investments? That was not clear to me.

Re:making money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45003601)

Start Freemium -> Hope that the competitors die -> Charge Money -> Make profit ;-)

Re:making money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45004415)

Start Freemium -> Sell Graduation Caps

Re:making money (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about a year ago | (#45003669)

The answer to this obvious question will frame every other question. It should have been included in the main post.

Re:making money (1)

citizenr (871508) | about a year ago | (#45004155)

Dont know about edX, but Coursera is trying to be a Linkedin for people with no CVs. They aggregate all your data (course results) and sell it to potential first employers

Re:making money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45005781)

The coursera "Career services" page says:

Records from selected courses are eligible to be shared with employers once the courses are complete. Please indicate which course records you'd like to share below. Note, only courses that are eligible to be shared will appear in the course list.
(o) all courses I successfully complete(recomended)
( ) courses that I select
[ ] Yes, I authorize Coursera to release my information and the course records selected above to Coursera Career Services Partner Companies. These companies may use this information to consider me for potential employment opportunities.

Those values are default (i.e. the checkbox is off by default). So if you believe them, they don't share your information without your permission. Of course these days it is difficult to believe someone. The judgement is up to you.

Headhunting (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#45004641)

I asked one of the edX higher-ups (not Dr. Agarwal) about this.

Apparently, there's a lot of interest from companies looking for good talent. For example, people who score in the upper 10% of a high-tech course would be of interest to many companies. Especially in today's market, where putting out a job listing will get thousands of inappropriate resumes.

IIRC, the top 2% of the original AI course [udacity.com] (Udacity, not edX) students could optionally have their resume sent to Google for consideration.

The edX higher-up was of the opinion that the future of high-tech hiring would be in the form of online course grades - you would list the courses you took and the grades you got as part of your resume. Companies would advertize for people who had taken specific courses and received certain grades.

Re:Headhunting (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year ago | (#45006061)

I dont think HR would be interested in the grades of single course. That is a pipe dream. I probably took 40 courses at MIT and another 25 Stanford. And the only time specific course came up were for summer jobs.

Re:making money (1)

agarwaledu (3367141) | about a year ago | (#45022001)

edX is a non-profit startup, but we still need to be self-sustaining. So we are exploring several business models spanning both B2C and B2B. Unlike other MOOC providers, since edX is a non-profit, we do not have VC investors, rather we have institutional funders including MIT and Harvard. Many of our university partners such as the UT system have also contributed $s to our cause. One can view these initial contributions as an early round of investment in edX.

In the B2C space, we use a freemium model. Students can take our courses for free, and they can even get an honor code certificate for free. However, we charge a small fee for ID verified certificates. In addition to the fee for the ID verified certificate (typically between $25 and $100 for a course), we offer the students the opportunity to contribute voluntarily to our cause by paying more than the minimum fee.

In the B2B space, we work with corporations, NGO, governments and state university systems. Here, edX hosts the platform for the institution, and the institution offers its courses on our platform for their employees or for other targetted learners. They pay edX for various services such as hosting, education services, training, etc. We have a number of such partnerships underway, including one with IMF.

Future of Private Digital libraries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45003445)

Any thoughts on the future of digital libraries: https://register.blib.us ?

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45003507)

Education is doomed and has no future beyond turning out good little worker drone consumers who follow the rules.
Even if they are stupid rules. Especially if they are stupid rules...

Dear Anant, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45003511)

One finds that s/he can rigorously learn different subjects provided that s/he has access to "proper" textbooks.
Almost every field has 'canonical', seminal text on the subject matter.

      According to you, is it true that having such texts and enough maturity to reason soundly is sufficient to become a proper self student/researcher ?

    I find it that all I need to learn any subject is a proper set of texts, pencil, paper. Computer with access to Internet is a great tool to have as well.

PS : I still recall how fun following your 6.002 class through OCW was. Always wanted to thank you and your colleagues who made it possible for us to learn courses.

are teaching faculty dead? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45003611)

Currently, many 2nd and 3rd tier universities rely heavily on (cost-effective) adjuncts and teaching-only "lecturers" for the majority of the instructional duties. To further maximize revenue, these schools could replace adjuncts and lecturers with MOOCs taught by professors at 1st tier universities. Are lecturers and adjuncts dead?

The cost of education (1)

Calsar (1166209) | about a year ago | (#45003619)

The cost of college education has been growing at an unsustainable rate. What do you think the underlying cause is and what effect will programs like edX have?

Why not get rid of the Honor Code? (2)

blue trane (110704) | about a year ago | (#45003655)

The Honor Code seems like a holdover from obsolete old educational methods. It seeks to make the free and open sharing of information somehow dishonorable.

Often students want to help each other in the forums. The quizzes and exercises can provide interesting applications that the instructor didn't go over in the videos. Why censor a student who, of his own free will, wants to help out another student?

The Honor Code, in forbidding explicit help to questions on assignments, encourages deviousness and obfuscation in the forums. Often, posts will be made deliberately vague, so that one has to make guesses, or "read between the lines", or try to mind-read. Wouldn't it be better to encourage clear, simple explanations on the forums? Students are sometimes as (or more) knowledgeable than the instructors, and can explain things in a better, simpler way. Often the instructors have been at the subject so long that they've forgotten what it's like to look at the material for the first time. Other students can fill in the gaps. But the Honor Code works against this type of peer-helping-peer interaction, because often the most interesting applications of the subject are in the exercises.

When I've argued for the dissolution of the Honor Code before, one response has been: you just have to wait until after the deadline. However this response is not adequate, because often the deadlines are a few weeks off. When a student is engaged in a particular problem, that is the most opportune time for him to learn. I've had questions I couldn't answer, and haven't gone back to check how to do them after the deadline passes, because I'm now involved in something else...

I think the Honor Code works against the spirit of openness and freedom of speech that the internet was founded on. What kind of skills are you trying to teach, by enforcing the Honor Code? Does a client care whether you "cheated" by looking up the answer to a programming problem on the internet, when you're writing a program for him?

I think there are better technological solutions than enforcing an archaic Honor Code. Can you put a "spoiler" tag on posts that reveal how to do an assignment question, and reward those students who don't click on those posts? You're supposed to be tracking our every click...

Thanks

real work places are open book / team based / lern (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45004137)

real work places are open book / team based / learn on the job.

Also lot's lots of the times the book may say this but in the real world setting it's some what different.

Re:Why not get rid of the Honor Code? (1)

mounthood (993037) | about a year ago | (#45004377)

An Honor Code covers things other than cheating or "open book" issues. see: https://www.edx.org/terms [edx.org]

Would you argue against this: "Not engage in any activity that would dishonestly improve my results, or improve or hurt the results of others." ?

Re:Why not get rid of the Honor Code? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45005151)

"dishonest" has varying definitions. so people with varying definitions of it are at different advantages.

Re:Why not get rid of the Honor Code? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45004387)

As someone who teaches at the college level, there's a pretty clear answer to this question.

Collaboration is very useful when solving complex advanced problems. I highly recommend it for senior-level project courses and the like, which allows various students to bring their own perspective and knowledge to projects which may not have a single "right answer."

But this rarely works for intro or intermediate level classes.

Allowing unfettered collaboration between students on all (or most) assignments often leads to situations where only a few students do the work, and the rest of the students simply copy the work of others. Many college students simply don't have the discipline to try a problem for themselves before peeking at the answer, or even wholesale copying of a solution from someone else.

Recently, I taught a class where many assignments were mostly straightforward right-or-wrong answers. It was clear from the assignments that some students were probably copying off of others. But for an experiment, I decided to let it go for a few weeks to see what would happen. The average score on homework assignments was roughly 90%. A few weeks later, the first test was given with similar questions (and some conceptual questions which should be obvious to anyone who actually did the homework), and nearly half the class scored a failing grade.

In a very similar course taught during a different term, I emphasized a number of times that while discussing assignments was allowed, sharing large numbers of answers or copying work was not -- and clear examples of copying would NOT be tolerated (i.e., a failing grade on the assignment for those who had clearly copied). I also designed the homework assignments in such a way that made copying more difficult, since answers required a little more work shown or brief explanations.

The homework average in that case was in the mid B range, and the first test scores were in the exact same range. Also, class discussion clearly showed that students knew more and understood more with an honor code enforced.

Setting aside the issue that it's difficult to give credit on collaborative assignments when you don't know whether each individual student even did ANYTHING -- simply put, on average, students learn better when they are forced to figure some things out on their own.

By the way -- I think collaboration and group assignments are great too, if they are used in addition to individual assignments. The problem is that in a college course, there often isn't time to do a group/collaborative assignment on topic X, grade it, give back feedback, and then do individual assignments still on topic X. College courses usually move too fast to make such a schedule workable. (In high school or something where classes often meet every day, it's more feasible.)

The only other option is to make the collaborative assignments optional or not give feedback on them or something, in which case few people do them. Yes, you can still offer them for the small percentage of people who would do them, but often you could also just point them to most textbooks that have some appendix with "selected answers" in the back with the same effect.

When a student is engaged in a particular problem, that is the most opportune time for him to learn. I've had questions I couldn't answer, and haven't gone back to check how to do them after the deadline passes, because I'm now involved in something else...

See, you're doing it wrong. In an ideal world, you could just meet with a professor one-on-one or in a group of two or three students or something, and just chat about all these things and learn as you go. Most people can't afford to pay for that sort of education. So, you get feedback after you hand in your assignment, and that's your chance to get the individual attention -- if you ignore it, you've just lost the most important stuff your professor will give you in your entire course, i.e., a specific critique of your individual mistakes.

What kind of skills are you trying to teach, by enforcing the Honor Code? Does a client care whether you "cheated" by looking up the answer to a programming problem on the internet, when you're writing a program for him?

The kind of skill I'm trying to teach is, well, actually knowing something, rather than just copying and pasting the work of others.

The internet is a great resource. It's fantastic to be able to find almost anything instantly. But you should be able to do more than search, copy, and paste to pass a class. The people I find who succeed in the world are often those who actually still have information stored in their heads, who can spend time thinking about stuff they already know, and apply their experience and knowledge to new situations -- which is impossible if you don't actually have anything in your head to begin with (no matter how good you are at searching the internet).

Re:Why not get rid of the Honor Code? (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about a year ago | (#45004403)

For students who want an education, no honor code is needed. For students who just want a credential, no honor code is sufficient.

Collaboration is OK in online courses (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#45004733)

I've been in several online courses.

The honor code doesn't disallow you from helping someone else through a problem, it disallows you from solving the problem for the other person.

We see this all the time in the discussion forums - someone comes in with "I don't know how to do this", and everyone jumps in to help. If it's a homework problem we can rephrase, use analogy, and solve a similar problem... but we can't outright give the answer or the exact steps for solving.

Consolidated degree offerings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45003693)

Do you see any possibility for a sort of "consolidated" degree program which might be applied-for once and carried out through any of several different online course offerings at different schools? Are universities talking to each other about such possibilities, or will degrees remain strictly per-school?

Right non online schools are pushly about transfer (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45004261)

They pull BS like

‘Well, sure, you completed English composition, but you didn’t take our class,’ and sort of cheating students out of transfer credits by insisting that they retake essentially the same classes,”

And in some cases the sates had to pass laws forcing colleges to take community college credits.

Prestige of Online Degrees (1)

Calsar (1166209) | about a year ago | (#45003721)

I received an under graduate and master’s degree from traditional universities. I also received two masters’ degrees through on-line classes. In my opinion programs like edX are the future of education, but on-line degrees are still not regarded with the same level of prestige as those received through traditional education. In part this has been due to questionable practices of some on-line educational institutions. How can this perception be changed and do you have and do you have any plans in that regard?

Shouldn't teachers be able to create content? (1)

theodp (442580) | about a year ago | (#45003753)

It seems one needs a PhD in CS to create an online course - shouldn't teachers really be able to create content on their own?

Re:Shouldn't teachers be able to create content? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45004381)

It seems one needs a PhD in CS to create an online course - shouldn't teachers really be able to create content on their own?

It's not difficult to create content online - you certainly don't need a PhD. Teachers who can't adapt aren't bad teachers in their preferred subject, they're just not valuable in an online economy.

Re:Shouldn't teachers be able to create content? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45004543)

What exactly keeps you from creating online content on your own? Salman Khan didn't need a PhD to upload crappy math videos to Youtube. He wasn't even a professional teacher.

Re:Shouldn't teachers be able to create content? (1)

theodp (442580) | about a year ago | (#45009161)

True, but the early videos were monologues. With the introduction of interactivity and exercises, things seem to have moved into the realm of software engineers.

are small liberal arts colleges dead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45003793)

Will MOOCs co-exist with small/private/expensive liberal arts colleges, or will MOOCs accelerate the commoditization of higher education, causing mass extinction of the traditional small college?

Degree's vs. E-degree's (1)

Sarendt (1154043) | about a year ago | (#45003811)

First let me say thank you, I really appreciate edx.org and the freedom it allows for me to continue learning new subjects. I just started taking my first class on edx yesterday, Leaning from Data, via Caltech, it looks to be a very interesting course! My question is about the future graduates from edx or similar online learning centers. Will people from around the world be able to compete in the global job market while using a degree or certificate from an online institute instead of a degree from a physical institute? If so, how do you see that changing our world? Cheers, Scott Arendt

Re:Degree's vs. E-degree's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45004613)

Will people from around the world be able to compete in the global job market while using a degree or certificate from an online institute instead of a degree from a physical institute?

Depends on what you mean by 'compete' - if you mean able to perform similarly in terms of quality and quantity of output if hired for the same jobs - yes. However, the point of an 'Ivy League' school vs community college is not the quality of education or the capabilities of the student after completing the courses. It is the network - who do you have access to in terms of funding and political capital and access to top research facilities as well as 'ins' to hiring for major corporations. So you might be every bit as competent, but for many jobs will be excluded because you don't have the network to get you access to those jobs and don't provide the value of bringing a network with you.

Will there be more EE courses in the future? (1)

asm2750 (1124425) | about a year ago | (#45003829)

I enjoyed taking MITx 6.002x with you last year. Is there any chance there will be a EE certificate program or graduate level courses (specialty courses) in the future?

Re:Will there be more EE courses in the future? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45004965)

He doesn't know who you are, thanks to Slashdot's pseudonyms. No brownie points, sorry!

MOOCs more about Teachers than Learners (3, Interesting)

IRGlover (1096317) | about a year ago | (#45003943)

As social creatures much of our knowledge is built from social interactions, where we integrate our own experiences and beliefs with that of others to build new knowledge and understanding (i.e. Social Constructivism). The current dominant MOOC model is extremely procedural, teacher-centred and discourages these types of social interactions. While this works well for some subjects (particularly at introductory levels), it is much less effective in other situations. How can the large MOOC platforms, and EdX in particular, encourage a more social method of learning?

Feedback? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45004023)

So what's the feedback mechanism for ensuring not only quality, but efficiency in teaching the subjects?

Mooc.org (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45004087)

Recently Google and EdX partnered up to create Mooc.org, which is being called by the Chronicle of Higher Ed the "Youtube for MOOCs". Will we start seeing less of a walled garden where experts in their own field can create these kinds of classes without having to be chosen as being part of a "worthy" institution like we've seen with EdX, Coursera, and FutureLearn? The trend towards inviduals becoming "superprofessors" is troubling, and I see very little collaboration between institutions to make these courses.

Motivation in Online Courses (3, Interesting)

Eric Hosman (3345395) | about a year ago | (#45004179)

Motivation plays a large role in any educational setting, but this is especially true in online courses. How do you best maintain a learner's motivation after the initial novelty has worn off? Online educational opportunities attract a wide array of learners, and we can't expect them all to be intrinsically motivated at a level consistent enough to complete a course, even if they are taking it for college credit or future growth opportunities. What are the best techniques to keep as many learners as possible engaged throughout an online course?

Re:Motivation in Online Courses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009729)

By not creating a platform that idiot instructors dump their shit on only to expect you (the learner) to wade through just to find simple pieces of information necessary to tackle whatever tasks exist. (I.e. - institutional LMS platforms like Blackboard are NOTORIOUSLY misused--and it's not the system's fault--it's entirely how they're used by the idiot instructors.)

Spying on your students (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#45004189)

To what extent has the knowledge that the NSA can watch all of your students, both foreign and domestic, affected the number of people signing up for your courses? Do you expect to be able to do business outside the US now it has been confirmed that the US government has access to all your student data, one way or another?

Re:Spying on your students (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45004573)

To no extent at all. These students are all on Facebook and Google Whatnot. They're happy to be spied on. They'll gladly share all their data on a mooc platform in the hope of being discovered by an employer.

What about moveing to an badges based system (3, Interesting)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45004205)

Where courses can be more right sized and not jammed / padded out into the older collgle time table system.

Where you don't have to take a big 2-4-6+ year block of time to get something that says to you know some thing.

It can also make ongoing education / learning new skills have more meaning as well.

What about merging Professional certification systems into an over all badges based system?

Do you think this is an good idea?

Re:What about moveing to an badges based system (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009157)

Where courses can be more right sized and not jammed / padded out into the older collgle time table system.

Where you don't have to take a big 2-4-6+ year block of time to get something that says to you know some thing.

It can also make ongoing education / learning new skills have more meaning as well.

What about merging Professional certification systems into an over all badges based system?

Do you think this is an good idea?

I sorta liked the badge system on KA but they could have done a much better job imo. I'd much prefer that if I learned everything I was GIVEN a certification that shows what I completed. I've never understood why you have to spend time/money to learn something and then pay even more to take a test and get a piece of paper. Would it be so bad to just let people learn what they want to learn and if they know it well simply print a piece of paper and send it to them or keep a database somewhere for others to search. Why should it cost extra money just to get certified in something, it's really silly.

Re:What about moveing to an badges based system (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45011007)

And the 4+ year pices of paper is even a bigger cost extra money just to get certified in something

Re:What about moveing to an badges based system (1)

agarwaledu (3367141) | about a year ago | (#45022085)

This is a good idea.

Good old degrees with 4 years in college, in stove-piped departments are an antediluvian concept. Why 4 years? My bachelor's degree at IIT madras was a 5-year program, and I probably use 20% of that in my job at this point in my life. Why specialize in one field? In today's fast moving, nimble world, learners and employers are looking for multidisciplinary education. Further, they are looking to refresh their skills as the workplace needs change.

A degree, fundamentally, is a signalling mechanism. It tells an employer that the holder likely has a set of skills. In the modern world, employers are looking for a diverse set of skills. So a promising alternative is one where learners acquire a traditional degree for 2 years (certainly less than the traditional 4 years), so that they can satisfy the bean-counting HR folks that need to see something that spells degree on the resume (and that will go away too with time). Then, the learner augments that with various other signals -- call them badges, or mooc-style certificates, so that employers can now see the whole portfolio.

A couple of weeks ago, edX also announced another interesting signalling mechanism, an XSeries certificate. Here a learner can take a sequence of courses in a given discipline on edx, and by passing all the courses in the sequence, earn an XSeries certificate. MIT and edX announced XSeries certificates in foundations of computer science and supply chain management for a start. Some of you have commented that individual courses do not mean much to employers, but mastery of a discipline is akin to a mini-masters or a minor program, and is meaningful. We believe these XSeries credentials from edX will have strong signalling value to employers and take MOOC credentialling and badging one additional step forward.

I can go on and on about this. I believe that in the future degree transcripts will be replaced by a colorful portfolio of credentials, including badges and certificates. OK OK, and degrees too, for backwards compatibility.

Should we have an A GED For college? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45004219)

Clarence Page at the Chicago tribune thinks we should what do you think?

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-11/news/ct-oped-0311-page-20120311_1_college-costs-rise-kayla-heard-college-attendance [chicagotribune.com]

Re:Should we have an A GED For college? (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about a year ago | (#45004705)

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-11/news/ct-oped-0311-page-20120311_1_college-costs-rise-kayla-heard-college-attendance

Hmm... from that article:

"These are jobs that do not require higher-level learning skills, critical thinking skills, or writing skills or anything of that nature," [Vedder, education expert] said in a telephone interview. [snip]

Let's go a step further, says Vedder.

"As college costs rise," he said, "people are asking: Aren't there cheaper ways of certifying competence and skills to employers?"

Hmm... so, we want to "certify" the "competence" of someone for an employer for a job that does not require "higher-level learning skills, critical thinking skills, or writing skills or anything of that nature." Isn't that called a high school diploma? Or, maybe even an 8th-grade graduation certificate? Seriously. You should not need a bachelor's degree to work in the sort of job described here. In fact, you shouldn't even need a high-school diploma for a job that doesn't require communication skills, writing skills, etc.

Only one of my grandparents graduated high school, and most of my grandparents' siblings didn't graduate either. Most only completed 4-8 years of school. But I've read the letters they wrote to each other during WWII, which often show a better command of English than many college undergraduates whose papers I've graded. I saw what they accomplished in their lives. I also know that the ones who actually completed high school were prepared to go out and get a job that DID require some writing and communication skills, as well as some critical thinking.

No -- we absolutely should NOT have a GED for college. We need to stop this ridiculous expansion of credentials, and we need to hold to higher standards for middle school and high school. If a person with a high school diploma isn't qualified for a job that does NOT require "higher-level learning skills, critical thinking skills, or writing skills or anything of that nature," what the heck is that person qualified to do? And if the answer is "nothing," then why did this person spend 13 years in the educational system?

What about trades / tech school like skills that a (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45005291)

What about trades / tech school like skills that are not really the best fit for an 4+ year college setting but have jobs that want the collgle credentials when some with HS and on job training / trades / tech school can do the job?

Difficulty of working 'offline' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45004269)

I've done courses via EDX, Coursera, and Udacity, and I'd say EDX was by far the worst experience.

The key flaws I've seen were

1) Difficulty of downloading materials for working offline - I don't have availabity of fast network access at home, so I need to be able to download stuff at a public library or such and then watch the videos offline. For Coursera this was extremely easy - go to a single lecture page and use 'download them all' and I get every video lecture and every lecture notes file. For EDX this was extremely frustrating - the only access to the video was often as an embedded video on seperate pages.

2) For coursera the videos are generally digital whiteboards/slides with a small area dedicated to the 'talking head' - without interuptions and with well organized lectures optimized for watching - for EDX they are generally a filming of a regular class, with all of the delays of instructors making mistakes and correcting themselves, of audience questions, and of the general 'looser' progression that happens during classroom lectures. Thus coursea is more efficient in terms of bandwidth and time.

At this point for me it seems that EDX has a lot of ground to make up, currently I'd only go there if there is some unique course that I can't get via coursera or udacity.

So my question is - do you think EDX is 'behind'? Have you experienced the other massive online classrooms and do you feel that the experience of EDX is comparable?

Teaching Versus Acting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45004605)

Greetings! I am one of the many people out there who want to better themselves by gaining higher education, mainly for my own benefit. one of the problems I have found is a lack of engagement in video lecturing. It is NOT that the lecturers or instructors are lacking knowledge on a subject, or even that they fail to explain a subject sufficiently. Rather, its that they speak to a camera as if it were a camera and not a student, simply a device to record rote knowledge instead of teaching through. There is a sort of wall there that very few of those who would love to share their knowledge seem to even be aware of, let alone have a clue how to breach.

So my question is: have you and your associates in this even considered something like this might be a problem, and if so what are you doing to address it?

Internationalization and multilingual support (3, Interesting)

gwstuff (2067112) | about a year ago | (#45004729)

Do you foresee such courses to be conducted primarily in English? In the long run, how do you see them being made accessible to speakers of other languages?
One possibility is to get them dubbed by translators, but then there is the inevitable loss in translation. Can one imagine setting up a network around the world and get the best professors record lectures in their native language.

Ph.D in Computer Science? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about a year ago | (#45005327)

I am very interested in considering the process to get my Ph.D. in Computer Science, online?

The late Aaron Schwartz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45005967)

Agarwal,

    As a scholar of non-jewish/wasp extract, what do you think are the pro`s and con`s of the efforts of the late Aaron Schwartz, regarding the opening of libraries for a broader readership?

Mr. X

certification (2)

markhahn (122033) | about a year ago | (#45006065)

People tend to focus on surface issues when considering how traditional Higher Education (HE) will relate to Online Education (OE). Things like the concept of lectures, or the character of universities if research and teaching are severed.

But much of the value (and much of an instructor's effort) actually goes toward establishing some measure of competency of the student: a grade. Other comments here have mentioned Honor Code, for instance, but that's not so much a problem as simply an attempt to ensure that a face-to-face course's grading is accurately assigning competence to individuals. for OE, it's even more natural to seek some form of collaborative learning (or outside assistance), especially if the OE course is self-paced. And really, why shouldn't a student simply continue to take the OE course until they are competent (or give up)? In which case, the import of an OE course is mainly in the competency testing - it's certification aspect.

So, is certification the way that traditional HE institutions become relevant to the future where everything is OE?

Advanced courses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45007347)

Will MOOC eventually have advanced courses? Or will they only have introductory ones?

HR Department Views (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45008703)

What HR departments are you talking to? I noticed that you set up a ID verified certificate, which is an important first step to helping unemployed individuals gain a job.

However, I used to interview candidates at my previous employer, and that's NOT really the role degrees play in most U.S. interviews. To verify identity, we use passports/driver's licenses/etc. combined with a background check. Rather, we used the *selectivity* of the applicant's university as a proxy for EQ, IQ, work ethic, etc. In fact, we didn't even need the applicant to graduate -- we just needed to see if they got in and what program they got into.

I'm curious to know if there are any HR departments who are willing to accept these certificates, and if so, what other adjustments they need from non-traditionally educated individuals.

Why such a big beef with Arthur Dent??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009073)

I know that due to the randomness of the universe it turns out that Arthur Dent keeps killing you over and over, but hey, that's just how the universe works. Did you really need to try and take it out on him personally? Get over things already!... Wait..., isn't this an interview with Agrajag???

Will professors be replaced by actors? (1)

theodp (442580) | about a year ago | (#45009325)

As production value becomes more important , will professors eventually be replaced by actors who may not have a command of the material, but can use a well-written script to deliver course material in a more engaging fashion?

Re:Will professors be replaced by actors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45010687)

In that case I would expect that the credibility and authenticity of the presenter would rapidly become an issue. Also, it is frequently good to have audience interaction and live discussion, which would be pretty much impossible without the subject matter audience.

  We might, though, be able to draw from the experience with newscasters. Most but not all are expected to know somewhat about what they are talking about. Even so, there is an increasing dependance on presentation, showmanship, and ratings. So it is definitely something to be wary of with education.

Online vs offline (1)

cliffjumper222 (229876) | about a year ago | (#45010319)

As a hiring manager, I would not care if a candidate had completed their degree online or offline so long as it was a real degree (we can test some things, but the whole point of a qualification is that it's supposed to mean something). However, there seems to be a big reluctance by established universities to give degrees based on these online courses so far. What needs to change for that to happen and will it ever?

Are Big Data the secret ingredient of MOOCs? (1)

HommeDeJava (986338) | about a year ago | (#45010631)

Greetings Dr Agarwal,

The invisible part of MOOCs is the massive collection of data on the behavior of students. Here, we're talking about Learning Analytics and Big Data which should be used to improve the next generation of MOOCs. This is a common practice of Web 2.0, the improvement process à la Google that exploits the data of its millions of users to improve its search engine. Here, students' data are a goldmine.

It is not easy for a teacher to find the sources of confusion and less effective pedagogical approaches from the small samples of data collected with a class of 20 students each year. Moreover, those students are pretty similar (the sample is statistically pretty homogenous). At the contrary, a MOOC with its thousands of students from all around the world and with very different backgrounds can use effective statistical data mining methods to detect problems and improve teaching. MOOC can also use machine learning to discover situations (or patterns) where students have common problems, in order to present evidence or explanations to help them.

More, compared to human, a computer never gets angry and it is always ready to resume its explanations, making it an ideal teaching tutor.

Do you see the potential for continuous improvement of MOOCs mainly due to Big Data, the secret ingredient of MOOCs in the long term?

Claude Coulombe
Montréal

Go Back To Kenya (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45011065)

And butt fuck u'r pet goat.

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