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How MOOC Faculty Exploit People's Desire To Learn

timothy posted about a year ago | from the not-exactly-the-stanford-prison-experiment dept.

Education 115

RichDiesal writes "Just as businesses try to make something off of massively online open courses (MOOCs), so do the faculty running them. But instead of seeking money, MOOC faculty seek something far more valuable: a cheap source of data for social science research. Unfortunately, the rights of research participants are sometimes ignored in MOOCs, and successful completion of courses are sometimes held hostage in exchange for mandatory participation in research, as in this case study of a Coursera MOOC. Such behavior is not tolerated in "real" college courses, so why is it tolerated in MOOCs taught by the same faculty?"

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Sounds . . . (4, Insightful)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about a year ago | (#45449953)

Sounds like somebody has an axe to grind

Re:Sounds . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45449989)

Likely this same person also has a facebook account, giving up information in exchange for not being charged money to use the site.

Re:Sounds . . . (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45453071)

Likely this same person also has a facebook account, giving up information in exchange for not being charged money to use the site.

Even more likely, he visits a specialized readership profiled site on the internet and pays by his eyeballs and content!

Re:Sounds . . . (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450049)

Sounds like somebody has an axe to grind

He writes and sells books - http://www.amazon.com/Step-Step-Introduction-Statistics-Business/dp/1446208214
MOOC's bypass the need for the books he sells.

No, they don't (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450311)

Sounds like somebody has an axe to grind

He writes and sells books - http://www.amazon.com/Step-Step-Introduction-Statistics-Business/dp/1446208214
MOOC's bypass the need for the books he sells.

Most MOOCs I've taken had a suggested reading list and many of the books are ones like his.

In other words, MOOCs are an AWESOME way for promoting your book.

Re:No, they don't (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year ago | (#45451373)

No, man: this is about H8ing capitalism, not pointing out that advertising is an integral part thereof.

Re:Sounds . . . (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#45451963)

He writes and sells books - http://www.amazon.com/Step-Step-Introduction-Statistics-Business/dp/1446208214 [amazon.com]

The price seems insanely high for a 400 page 10x7 paperback book on basic statistics...

Re:Sounds . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45452153)

The price seems insanely high for a 400 page 10x7 paperback book on basic statistics...

$50 is high for textbook on any subject? What era did you to go University / College in? A typical Math or Sciences textbook is $200 these days. I'm not saying $200 is fair, but $50 for the paperback seems pretty reasonable.

Re:Sounds . . . (1)

fatphil (181876) | about a year ago | (#45453203)

His book on basic statistics is only $15, it's only his book on basic statistics *for business* that is $130.

Re:Sounds . . . (1)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about a year ago | (#45450171)

No no, I think it brings up an excellent point. (Okay maybe he does have an axe to grind, but does that excuse what's actually going on?)

In a recent meandering about the nuances about cell phone plans, in an attempt to find the best one for the lowest cost, I came across fine print details about tethering. Pretty much all prepaid services (Net10, Straight Talk, Aio, iWireless, etc.) forbid tethering your cell phone to any other device. Which is... Well absurd when you think about it.

But it's somehow legal.

Should an ISP be permitted to tell you how you're allowed to connect to their network, explicitly prohibiting setting up a wireless network? It's tantamount to having a toll road forbid anyone from using their road because they passed over a bridge a few miles back (and they don't want any bridge crosser coming through their road).

There's a practical reason for it, sure (tethering increases data use which means greater cost), but as I said before, this illustrates a greater point. And that's that we like to find excuses to find ways around rules to partake in exploitative behavior. The question of it being right or wrong never even entered into their minds; instead it's, "Can I get way with doing this?"

Hobbes would have a field day with this.

data caps / use are about no tethering (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45450723)

the cheap ones say no data cap and some do slowdown after X data use.

Re:Sounds . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45451735)

Should an ISP be permitted to tell you how you're allowed to connect to their network, explicitly prohibiting setting up a wireless network?

The ISP I was signed up with about 10 years ago specifically forbade its subscribers from multiplexing their connection. Some ISPs had modems that would lock to the MAC address of the first device connected through it, hence the MAC address cloning feature of some routers.

Re:Sounds . . . (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#45452403)

Which is... Well absurd when you think about it.

Not really. They're selling you a data plan with a price based on some assumptions about usage patterns. If you're tethering something, or serving as a NAP for other people, you're using more data.

But it's somehow legal.

As well it should be. It's a private contract between you and your service provider. They should be free to offer you service, just as you are free to decline to buy from them. Government intervention isn't always required, nor is it always a good thing. Personally, I think if you agreed to not tether your device to get service, you should respect that and not tether your device.

It's tantamount to having a toll road forbid anyone from using their road because they passed over a bridge a few miles back

No, it's more like you driving your 18 wheeler on the toll road and expecting to pay the automobile rate. Or you getting a motel room at a single rate and having 20 of your friend stay over with you. Where you had your phone before or which motel you stayed at last night isn't relevant.

but as I said before, this illustrates a greater point. And that's that we like to find excuses to find ways around rules to partake in exploitative behavior.

Yes, people like to find excuses to get around rules, even rules they agreed to abide by in order to get what they are trying to get around in the first place. Human nature.

The question of it being right or wrong never even entered into their minds; instead it's, "Can I get way with doing this?"

They aren't trying to "get away" with anything, they're trying to keep from having to massively increase capacity for people who are paying the lowest rates and using the most data.

Should they invest in infrastructure to improve service? As a customer, I say "of course". Is their hesitancy some grand plot to keep their jackboots on the throats of the people? No, not really.

Re:Sounds . . . (5, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a year ago | (#45450319)

Sounds like somebody has an axe to grind

Good. Grind it to a fine edge and cut these fraudulent mofos down. MOOCs in general are 90% scam, nothing more than taking the old idea of a correspondence course and adding the phrase "...on the inernet!", and this one specifically is clearly engaging in unethical behavior:

For example, in Week 4, the assignment was to complete this research study [link to a SurveyGizmo questionnaire about your gaming habits], which was not linked with any learning objectives in that week (at least in any way indicated to students). If you didn't complete the research study, you earned a zero for the assignment. There was no apparent way around it.

In my experience on one of the human subjects review boards at my university, I can tell you emphatically that this would not be considered an ethical course design choice in a real college classroom.

Re: Sounds . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45451125)

There is where you are wrong.
Then are not just online. The are Massively online.
Aparently their acronym guy plays to much Warcraft.

Re: Sounds . . . (1)

blue trane (110704) | about a year ago | (#45451341)

The improvement over correspondence courses is the real-time interaction. You get quiz results instantly, and you can ask and answer questions as you're doing the material in the forums. In a correspondence course, the shortest time you have to wait is at least days.

Re: Sounds . . . (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about a year ago | (#45453775)

Sounds like the Stats class I took online at FSU.

"Days" was blindingly fast for the TAs in that one.

Re:Sounds . . . (2)

blue trane (110704) | about a year ago | (#45451343)

It's funny how the guy first says "certificates are worthless" then gets mad because he's asked to do something he doesn't want to do to get the worthless reward. What does he lose by not doing the survey?

Couldn't disagree more! (5, Insightful)

eatvegetables (914186) | about a year ago | (#45451871)

I have surveyed several coursera courses and completed a couple. Being a Comp Sci, telecoms professional, I derived tremendous value from Coursera material related to these disciplines. Only cost is my time. The video lectures are gold. Most classes that I've seen are project based. Learning is doing. In general, I've found that course difficulty usually floats somewhere between college senior and first year grad student. Some are just insanely hard. One has to accept that one bit of important material is missing, proofs. Just no way to auto-grade them, in general. I haven't seen anything to complain about.

Re:Couldn't disagree more! (2)

jrminter (1123885) | about a year ago | (#45453237)

I, too, have taken three Coursera classes for credit and done all the work. All three were well worth the effort. One was a teaser program for an expensive masters sponsored by the University. That was clear and did not diminish the value. Another was the first offering and was experimenting with peer grading. There were many problems with peer grading, but that did not diminish the value. I respect all three of the instructors and benefited greatly from the work and interaction.

One must have reasonable expectations of MOOCs. Much of the data mining is actually designed to benefit students. Andrew Ng and Daphne Kohler have written about how valuable the large sample size is for detecting conceptual misunderstanding from wong quiz answers to give appropriate automatic feedback. Two of my classes had over 10,000 participants. Compare that to the typical size of less than 200 at most universities. Seems to me that both faculty and students benefit from such research - faculty from publications and name recognition and students from better instruction.

Re: Couldn't disagree more! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45453599)

Even if you just audit Coursera lectures you're still going to be better off than watching TV or hanging out on Facebook. The author of the article has a pretty clear conflict of interest.

Re:Sounds . . . (2)

DriedClexler (814907) | about a year ago | (#45451873)

Ethical: put you in undischargeable debt equal to twice your future year yearly income as a precondition to being taught and having the university vouch for your completion.

Not ethical: Require you to take a survey in order to get a certificate of completion in a free, unaccredited course.

???

Re:Sounds . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450573)

That's not really a counterargument though, having an interest in the matter doesn't necesssarily mean that the guy is wrong.

Re:Sounds . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45452045)

I recall a real freshman economics course at a real university where I had to participate in real economics research experiments for real course credit (and cash).

Re:Sounds . . . (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about a year ago | (#45452083)

Not enough to actually bother replying in the thread!

Go on, try it!

Control-F Find for RichDiesal ... no comments!

So no, he doesn't have an axe to grind because he put it away four minutes after he turned the grinder on!

Unless he's lurking. Whatever.

I just have less respect for submitters who don't actively respond to the threads.

Re:Sounds . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45452689)

I just have less respect for submitters who don't actively respond to the threads.

I don't know the guy, but maybe he's in another time zone. Or perhaps he has a job or even a life and cannot be online 24/24.

I have submitted before, the next time I came online the discussion was already down on the front page.

Because MOOCs aren't experiments (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45449967)

If it was a real experiment, they'd have to have an ethics review and all the details of the research would have to be disclosed to the participants. Since this is not happening, any data derived from the MOOC "research" is not ethically sound, probably completely invalid from a social science perspective, and should probably get Coursera in trouble with certain academic circles.

This and only this (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450163)

Shit don't fly on ethics boards. Easy to kill a career over this; once the reviewers in the field know, you're never going to publish again.

Re:This and only this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45451083)

Shit don't fly on ethics boards.

Really? My impression was that it's extremely common to require patients/subjects to give up privacy in exchange for cutting edge medical treatments. Typically, the cutting edge treatment is part of some research study and in order to participate you have to agree to let the investigator publish the results of the experiment.

For example, if you've got a rare genetic disorder, the costs of sequencing your genome are now in the ballpark of a few thousand dollars (an even thousand for only exome sequencing but up above five thousand for full genome). But, for anything beyond a simple known disease variant that gets identified in the basic analysis pipeline, you're going to need a PhD to spend some serious time looking at your data. And the price of that is privacy - letting the PhD publish your results.

Thing is, IRBs are totally fine with this practice. Which raises the question of whether IRBs are realy about protecting the patient or whether they're about covering institutional behinds from lawsuits and embarrassment - which isn't quite the same thing (e.g. if you force the patients/subjects to sign away their rights then that protects against lawsuits).

Re:This and only this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45451279)

Privacy isn't the issue, it is the consensual waiver of privacy that is the important part.

Re:This and only this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45451335)

Privacy isn't the issue, it is the consensual waiver of privacy that is the important part.

But is it really consensual? With respect to rare genetic disorders, there are certain specific disorders where eating the right thing (or not eating the wrong thing) makes the difference between dying in infancy and living out a normal life. So, oversimplifying a bit, the choice is along the lines of "Give up your privacy or watch your baby die." As far as the IRB is concerned, though, as long as the privacy was given up in advance with iron-clad legalese then it's all fine and ethical.

Re: This and only this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45452471)

They publish without using the patients actual name. Subject A or parient A etc...
It is unusual for the patients name to be used.

Re:Because MOOCs aren't experiments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450239)

I didn't click through the survey, but if it's fairly specific then it shouldn't fall under the scope of a real Institutional Review Board. I think the example I've seen is like a taste test. If it's not a generalizable, then it's not research and therefore shouldn't be covered by an IRB review.

Re:Because MOOCs aren't experiments (2)

JanneM (7445) | about a year ago | (#45450563)

Any research like this you will need to show you have IRB approval (or some equivalent) in order to get it published. No reputable journal will accept your paper unless you have it.

But if this is not academic research but marketing research for hire then it's different. No intention to publish so no ethics approval needed.

Re:Because MOOCs aren't experiments (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#45450831)

There is no substance in the blog post, so it is unclear what is going on. This cannot be published research because the participants are not given a consent form detailing the parameters of the experiment and what is to be collected and what personal information will be exposed. Furthermore, as participation is mandatory any data will be suspect.

Which leads me to believe that this is just some sort course development thing. This is quite common. For instance any time one takes a standardized test, be it an AP test, a college entrance test, a college placement test, a certification test, there are always some questions on there that are being researched, that do not count towards your score. This is mandatory research, and in some cases you have paid to take the test. At the end of an increasing number of college course, there is an exit survey, and since most people fill it out there is little need to make it mandatory.

But of course MOOC do tend to have students will less vested interest in the course. It is not like real classes where so much work has been done that one final sheet of paper seems like a massive inconvenience. Next these people are going to complain that one has prove that one gained some knowledge in order to get a certificate.

Re:Because MOOCs aren't experiments (1)

slew (2918) | about a year ago | (#45451485)

If it was a real experiment, they'd have to have an ethics review and all the details of the research would have to be disclosed to the participants.

Not all research is scientific. Marketing research is real enough and nothing has to be disclosed or passed through an ethics review board, nor disclosed to participants. Arguably, some marketing research might have more effect on your real life than some "real" experiments (e.g., often influencing what you can buy, what is discontinued, features in new products, etc)...

Happens in real classes too (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45449983)

I recall that in Psych 101 at my university in order to pass one had to do a certain number of hours of "research study participation". This entailed going to an office in the psych building and being a psych subject in some grad student's experiment. I don't remember anyone complaining too much about this.

Re:Happens in real classes too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450025)

I was going to say the same thing. Frankly, I liked that part of it.

Re:Happens in real classes too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45452273)

Frankly, I liked that part of it.

Especially the electric shocks. Weeeeeeeeee!!!

Re:Happens in real classes too (4, Informative)

immaterial (1520413) | about a year ago | (#45450037)

Because you also had the alternative option of writing an essay, or some such thing (but the experiments were far more interesting than writing yet another essay; who'd choose an essay?). I've never seen a psych department that doesn't offer alternatives, for this very reason. You can't force participation.

Re:Happens in real classes too (1)

zoward (188110) | about a year ago | (#45450951)

I was never offered an alternative when I took Intro to Psych, although this was back in 1986. Your "alternative" was: don't take Intro to Psych. They made it clear on the first day.

Re:Happens in real classes too (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#45451307)

Considering the only people required to take Psychology are Psychology majors, it could be argued that taking part in some of these studies as the subject is a necessary experience prior to conducting them yourself.

Re:Happens in real classes too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45452731)

the only people required to take Psychology are Psychology majors

Huh? I studied philosophy, psychology 101 was a required course. We had it together with the laws, criminology and morals students, it was required for them to. We were never asked to participate in experiments.

My daughter is now studying sociology, she has psychology it together with the political science students - required. They can earn "extra points" by participating in experiments, it is no obligation (but everybody ofc wants the "extra points").

Re:Happens in real classes too (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450127)

I came to write this exact thing: the psychology department at my university (UC Berkeley) also forced students to mandatorily participate in research for psych for undergraduate psych classes.

I felt so violated. I had to smell a bunch of really weird (and possibly carcinogenic) smells, in order to pass the course. I guess the research was on olfactory senses and trying to classify them.. So tramautized.

Sorry, I guess this is "1st world problems".

Re:Happens in real classes too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45452541)

This happened in my psych class too but I think the idea was that it was valuable to learn what the test subjects went through. The research wasn't particularly invasive though, basic Myers/Briggs stuff. I dont remember if an alternative was offered.

Re:Happens in real classes too (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | about a year ago | (#45453409)

My class had the same rule, except you could write a report on one of the chapters not covered if you refused to be a test subject. I had no desire to be a test monkey and told the professor I not going to do the punishment paper for refusing to be tested on. I got an A in the class so if it did count against my grade it didn't hurt my grade that much.

Quid Pro Quo (5, Insightful)

Jim White (3435295) | about a year ago | (#45449985)

It's tolerated for the same reason "free" services such as those provided by Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and most any other important social media company display ads and do data mining on visitor and subscriber behavior. The research being conducted with the data collected in MOOCs is one of the most socially valuable results possible since it leads directly to better education for the world. As Andrew Ng has stated plainly, his primary concern in participating in Coursera is delivering the best education possible to the world's poorest people. Coursera A/B tests most every aspect of the student learning experience and makes decisions based on what results in the best student learning outcome. Exactly what better system are you proposing?

Re:Quid Pro Quo (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450029)

"important" social media? Are you high?

Same as Face-to-Face (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about a year ago | (#45450187)

It's also the same as a face to face course. When I teach a course I use student responses and feedback to improve the course the next time I teach it. While some of the feedback is voluntary, end of course questionnaires some of it is me looking at student responses to e.g. assignments and rewording questions to avoid common misinterpretations or looking at exam answers and adding or changing assignment questions to make students focus on concepts a large number had problems with.

This is how teaching has worked since it first began Each year's students are benefiting from the data provided by the previous years. The only difference with a MOOC is that this is more quantified which is has to be given the size of the enrolment. So long as the data is used to improve the teaching of the course then I don't see an issue because this is what teachers do innately (although you do need special, voluntary permission as well as ethics oversight if you wish to make any results public).

However if the data is going to be used for non-teaching purposes e.g. to make more effective ads, then this needs to be made crystal clear to students before they sign up for the course so they know what is going on and what the price for a "free" course is. While this sort of thing would not be tolerated in a course that you pay for in a "free" course, so long as consent is informed and up front, what's the problem?

Re:Same as Face-to-Face (2)

penix1 (722987) | about a year ago | (#45450701)

So then you wouldn't have too much of a problem when I give you nonsensical answers to your questions on your "required" questionnaire? The major difference is in traditional class there is oversight (ethics boards) that is non-existent in MOOC and the ability to opt out of it. As TFA states, students were required to populate a database essentially doing the researcher's work. Again, what is to say that I won't just throw all kinds of garbage in that? Then what value is that research when thousands do the same given the scale MOOC is talking about?

Re:Same as Face-to-Face (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about a year ago | (#45451825)

So then you wouldn't have too much of a problem when I give you nonsensical answers to your questions on your "required" questionnaire?

If it's "required" then I don't see how you can stop someone doing that - which is a very good reason not to make it required without getting consent first.

The major difference is in traditional class there is oversight (ethics boards) that is non-existent in MOOC and the ability to opt out of it.

I don't understand - why can't you opt out of the MOOC? It's not like you are getting a qualification that is worth anything - all you get is the knowledge you learn from the course. If you don't feel like doing assignment X then just don't do it. So what if your course grade suffers - it's only meaning is to let you know how well you are doing with the material in a course without accreditation.

Re:Quid Pro Quo (1)

dcollins (135727) | about a year ago | (#45452131)

" Coursera A/B tests most every aspect of the student learning experience and makes decisions based on what results in the best student learning outcome. "

Citation needed? I'm really curious about this, because (for example) Udacity makes the same claims and on closer inspection it seems to be basically BS. So if there are concrete examples of how Coursera has done this, I'd like to read about it.

Two Legs Good, Four Legs Better! (2)

meehawl (73285) | about a year ago | (#45452371)

The research being conducted with the data collected in MOOCs is one of the most socially valuable results possible since it leads directly to better education for the world.

This scans like marketing newspeak. Astroturf?

that's lot of lazy teachers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450013)

> To facilitate a 50,000:1 teacher-student ratio, they rely on an instructional model requiring minimal instructor involvement, potentially to the detriment of learners

Re:that's lot of lazy teachers (5, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#45450295)

I think it's pretty obvious to everyone that a MOOC is going to be an inferior experience to a physical lecture and TA-led study sessions. On the other hand it's drastically better than the "no education" you could alternately get for the same price. And if you have an axe to grind against 50,000:1 ratios, are you volunteering to teach at more reasonable ratio in southern Africa or India at local wages?

As far as the lecture itself goes, frankly I would be surprised if 50,000:1 were notably worse than the 500:1 you sometimes see in intro courses, or even a 50:1 ratio. Once the class is too large for the professor to meaningfully engage with students individually then what does it matter how many extra eyes are watching?. It might even be better given the quantized feedback and sample size, and the fact that you can actually read the "blackboard" comfortably. Not to mention immediately back up and repeat any bits that confuse you.

Hardly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450377)

I think it's pretty obvious to everyone that a MOOC is going to be an inferior experience to a physical lecture and TA-led study sessions.

The TAs I had were mostly grad students from Third World countries (with barely understandable English) who were exhausted from overwork and had a huge chip on their shoulder. I got the impression they thought of me as some rich entitled American who didn't know what hard work was.

Re:that's lot of lazy teachers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450395)

The problem is, these systems aren't just replacing "no education" with a better alternative. They're being used to gut opportunities for good educations with cheap, crappy replacements (so the difference in costs can be shoveled into billionaire investors' pockets). Advanced countries have long had the ability to offer high-quality educations to everyone in the middle/working class willing and able to learn; an opportunity which is being systematically undermined by the elite interests behind commercialized education. Perhaps in the most remote undeveloped African villages it's unfeasible to support highly qualified expert teachers (when basic nutrition and sanitation is the highest priority). But, why should the middle class in countries like the US have their opportunity for top-quality education be gutted, just to serve billionaires' interests?

Re:that's lot of lazy teachers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450491)

It is not at all obvious that it is inferior to physical lectures.
Well run MOOC's are quite a bit better then the lectures I have been in.

A lecture can't give you a quick test to see if you understand something and skip forward to something useful. Lectures can't branch out to help out with area's you are having trouble with. You can't pause a lecture and go find out a bit more about something that you were lacking before you went into it.

A well run MOOC can be FAR better then a lecture. Most of them are not well run, but some are. I'd expect the ones that are well run will increase.

It is inferior to 1 on 1 learning with someone who is engaged, good at teaching and knows their stuff. But that is a very high bar to jump.

--- Blair

Re:that's lot of lazy teachers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450581)

As far as the lecture itself goes, frankly I would be surprised if 50,000:1 were notably worse than the 500:1 you sometimes see in intro courses, or even a 50:1 ratio. Once the class is too large for the professor to meaningfully engage with students individually then what does it matter how many extra eyes are watching?

Well, there's the problem of fitting the extra few thousand professors into the room.

Re:that's lot of lazy teachers (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#45451767)

Heheheh. How did I miss that?!?!

Re:that's lot of lazy teachers (1)

metrix007 (200091) | about a year ago | (#45450711)

I disagree that an online class is inferior. Far too often lecturers don't really do anything more than quote a textbook verbatim.

The online approach allows for an easier way to look up things on the fly (alleviating the need for expensive textbooks somewhat) and allows a greater degree of social participation through things like forums.

It also allows more freedom for different methods of learning, instead of assuming everyone learns in the same way.

Re:that's lot of lazy teachers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450783)

The professor and TAs I've had were far more interested in running around and trying to grub for grants than anything else.

There was also the fact that the prof and TAs were from a different country and made it quite clear that they did not like Americans and anyone of their race is going to get a better grade.

Oh, prof office hours? He usually is busy yapping with a student on a foreign visa, and by the time he gets to you, he says, "maybe next time".

Want an education in the US? Get your B. S. from an accredited Podunk U, then go get your M. S. and up from a real university. In bigger colleges, the undergrads are at best useful idiots.

Re:that's lot of lazy teachers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45451003)

The article says 50,000:1 teacher-student ratio, as in 50k teachers per student. Mind your units.

Re:that's lot of lazy teachers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45451085)

My MOOC courses have been excellent. I don't think the traditional university has a monopoly on education anymore.

I have a son in China that is taking a MOOC course on computer programming. I just finished four courses. I have more interaction with students and TA's via the discussion board than I had in a traditional classroom. The video lectures and reading assignments are high quality.

If they can figure out how to make money, then they will become the standard. I have a Nobel prize winning professor coming up in a Feb MOOC out of Yale.

Re:that's lot of lazy teachers (1)

kubajz (964091) | about a year ago | (#45453381)

I am a teacher and that's exactly what I have been thinking for many years. One of the things that changed my opinion was Daphne Koller's TED talk [ted.com]

no different (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | about a year ago | (#45450081)

There are lots of services that one gets from the government which come with all sorts of catchs. Obviously you never read your student bullitin and talked to people who were expelled. What right did Brown University have in expelling Amy Carter?

WHY ?? BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT A ROCK STAR !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450139)

Yoo do not get money for nothing !!

You do not get your chicks for free !!

You will participate !!

EVH - RIP

Mountains out of molehills (1)

VTBlue (600055) | about a year ago | (#45450173)

Actually researchers are required by state laws and university guidelines to follow research consent laws regardless of whether they are done via the university or not. In this case however, the issue is blurred because it depends what the researcher is doing. The line between research using aggregated data and using platform BI tools to benchmark effectiveness are related things but different. It may not be easy to draw the lines as easily as before because data is used for everything now.

Do what I do (2)

musth (901919) | about a year ago | (#45450201)

Fuck with their data. Give them false answers and rub it in.

I almost never answer online marketing surveys truthfully, particularly when they are required for something they shouldn't be required for. It should be no different when academia does it.

Re:Do what I do (1)

digitig (1056110) | about a year ago | (#45450303)

Exactly. I clicked through a few of the questions, and it was one of the few online contexts I can think of where pretending to be a teenage female gaming geek wouldn't get me into trouble.

Re:Do what I do (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#45453439)

YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!

You should tell them what you honestly think.

Remember Crystal Pepsi? Remember The New Coke? LOTS of people were surveyed before they decided to go forward with the products. They were all wrong! Answering counter to your opinion is probably giving them better data.

Free is never really free (4, Insightful)

ilsaloving (1534307) | about a year ago | (#45450383)

Going to a brick and mortar univerrsity will cost you tens of thousands of dollars. How much do MOOCs cost you? Most likely the cost is zero.

As someone who needed to spend years crawling out of my university debt, you would need to use an electron microscope to see the size of the violin I'm playing right now.

Nothing in this world comes for free, nor should it. If you don't like it, then do without, you bloody self-entitled cheepskates.

Re:Free is never really free (1)

bunkymag (1567407) | about a year ago | (#45451673)

Not to derail your point which was well made - just posting a helpful picture of a cheepskate for those who similarly didn't know what it meant: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/0b/81/55/0b8155879ce935c9785f63d17a290f06.jpg [pinimg.com] :D

Re: Free is never really free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45453709)

I'm going to assume that's not Photoshopped because it'd be a huge let down if it was...

Simple Solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450421)

If they "force" you to participate in a study, simply give them garbage results. Choose options at random without reading the question. Deliberately choose false/wrong statements. Do whatever you can to ruin their data-set.

Misses the point (2)

Smallpond (221300) | about a year ago | (#45450471)

From the article: Instead of paying new employees during an onboarding and training period, business can now require employees to take a “free course” before paying them a dime.

The next step is when companies start suggesting the problems they would like to have solved for course credit. The course is "free" to the participant,but somebody is paying the bills, and that somebody expects to get something of value.

free course is better then a high cost theory base (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45450749)

free course is better then a high cost theory based degree with big skill gaps.

Re:free course is better then a high cost theory b (1)

Smallpond (221300) | about a year ago | (#45450809)

No it isn't. Skills become obsolete in a year. Theory never does.

Re:free course is better then a high cost theory b (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45450825)

but that Theory can also be part of skills based plan that does 4 years of pure class room. Why not have an apprenticeship system?

Re:free course is better then a high cost theory b (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450881)

Why not have an apprenticeship system?

It's called co-op.

And it is quite common.

Re:Misses the point (1)

James McGuigan (852772) | about a year ago | (#45453099)

This works until the problems being solved for course credit become so complex/hard/boring/time-consuming that the number of participants drops to 0 and you have to decrease the course cost to negative figures just to get a handful of people to offer to enroll and complete the course... the eLance and vWorker universities are rather popular in developing nations... the StackOverflow university runs a similar model but they manage to run it on a revenue neutral basis to both sides

simple answer (3, Interesting)

binarstu (720435) | about a year ago | (#45450473)

From the original post: "Such behavior is not tolerated in "real" college courses, so why is it tolerated in MOOCs taught by the same faculty?"

TFA answers the question quite nicely: "Despite a couple of years of discussion, the question of monetization remains largely unresolved. MOOCs are about as popular as they were, they still drain resources from the companies hosting them, and they still don’t provide much to those hosts in return." Good or bad, it's an attempt to try to get something useful in return for the effort it takes to create a MOOC course. It's as simple as that, and there's no reason to read anything more sinister into it.

And let's not hyperbolically describe this as "holding the users hostage," okay? Users are free to leave the course whenever they want -- hostage situations don't usually work that way.

Re:simple answer (1)

hweimer (709734) | about a year ago | (#45452895)

And let's not hyperbolically describe this as "holding the users hostage," okay? Users are free to leave the course whenever they want

Not if the forced study participation occurs halfway through the course when users have already invested significant ressources. As long as the annoyance being asked for is less than than the total amount of work invested, people will stay in whether they like it or not, making this approach highly unethical (unless it's clearly communicated before peple enroll).

You are the product (2)

Gavrielkay (1819320) | about a year ago | (#45450475)

Didn't someone point out that if you're getting something for free, you probably are the product? In the same way that Facebook happily sells your personal information to advertisers, these professors use your information for their own benefit. If you get something for (nothing | less than full price) it's probably in exchange for something else.

Quid pro quo Clarice!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450533)

Quid pro quo Clarice!!!

What college did you go to? (3, Interesting)

thepainguy (1436453) | about a year ago | (#45450677)

"...successful completion of courses are sometimes held hostage in exchange for mandatory participation in research, as in this case study of a Coursera MOOC. Such behavior is not tolerated in 'real' college courses..."

Signing up for one or more experiments was a requirement of every undergrad psych class I took.

Re:What college did you go to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45452387)

Bingo! As an undergrad in Psych 101 we were given the choice of participating in 5 experiments, or writing a paper. Guess what everyone did.

Re:What college did you go to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45452829)

Yup. This is where most of the experimental subjects for academic psych papers come from.

MOOCs are great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45450931)

I just finished my 10th MOOC through Coursera https://class.coursera.org/. They have all been great. I'm just completing a course: Søren Kierkegaard - Subjectivity, Irony and the Crisis of Modernity. The lectures are done at different locations, even traveling to Germany. Experts on the subject are interviewed. Discussions boards are in several languages and are moderated by grad students. Mostly high level discourse.

I have an economics course coming up in Feb. The university sponsoring it is Yale and the professor was just awarded the Nobel prize!

I live in a university town and I have free access to audit classes, but I don't think I will. Yes. This is a disruptive technology.

Re:MOOCs are great (1)

mha (1305) | about a year ago | (#45452923)

> The university sponsoring it is Yale and the professor was just awarded the Nobel prize!

That is... naive. It is highly unlikely that that professor has any hand in this. It is like saying "pharao Khufu(Cheops) built the great pyramid", only that the pharao likely had a much bigger role in building the pyramid - he caused it to happen in the first place, while the professor may or may not have heard of all the tiny little things his team of Ph.D.s and Ph.D. hopefuls and other helpers are doing all day. That doesn't mean it's bad, my favorite (youtube, http://www.youtube.com/user/bullharrier/videos [youtube.com] ) medical lectures, for example, are from some unknown guy at a relatively unknown university after checking out what the ivy league videos had to offer. So you are naive for another reason yet: "leader (or famous person) cult".

Re:MOOCs are great (1)

jrminter (1123885) | about a year ago | (#45453265)

> That is... naive. It is highly unlikely that that professor has any hand in this.

I suspect you are wrong. Prof. Shiller already makes his classes available through OpenYale. I have watched several of his lectures. His lectures are quite engaging and he seems to enjoy teaching.

not tolerated (1)

epine (68316) | about a year ago | (#45451111)

Horrible story text.

I'm wasn't aware that universities had an existing policy in effect protecting non-tuititive students from forced enrolment of their metadata in minor research programs.

Doesn't he have somewhere else to troll?

Econ 101 (1)

Mantrid42 (972953) | about a year ago | (#45451299)

TINSTAAFL

Re:Econ 101 (1)

blue trane (110704) | about a year ago | (#45451401)

Physics 101: dark energy is free.

Re:Econ 101 (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#45453539)

TINSTAAFL

Think Infinite Natural Supply To Act As Free Lunches.

This is the Age of Information. Copies are in infinite supply, their price will be zero regardless of cost to create; Otherwise "piracy" could not exist.

The bits are not scarce. Monetize what is scarce: The ability to create new configurations of bits, not the infinitely reproducible output thereof. Monetizing artificial scarce information is as untenable as selling ice to Eskimos.

Econ 101, indeed.

Formal Edu vs. Tech - which way will /. go? (1)

MikeTheGreat (34142) | about a year ago | (#45451513)

Y'know, I was wondering which was going to win out- /.'s general disdain for Formal Education vs. /.'s worship of technology. Looks like MOOCs have been around long enough for /.ers to start thinking about them like the rest of Formal Education.

If anyone's interested, we could probably find some open source software to run a betting pool on how /. will break in it's next article on MOOCs (my money's on "back to mindless adoration").

Put me down as 'author has axe to grind' (2)

tipo159 (1151047) | about a year ago | (#45451691)

I took that first Thrun/Norvig pre-Udacity AI course. I have been taking one or two Udacity or Coursera courses per season since they started up. Before any of this, I was watching Stanford courses on iTunesU. Sometimes I complete the course. Sometimes I don't. But I almost always get something out of the courses. I am a mid-senior software engineer, but I still have plenty to learn.

I have never been the kind of student who approached the professor outside of class, so I think that MOOCs are fine (I barely even use the MOOC forums.) Most of the problems that I have found with the MOOCs could have just as easily been a problem with an in-person course.

For example, I recently took a Coursera Social Psychology course. It started off very interesting, but, about halfway through, it seemed clear to me that the lecturer had an agenda and the course veered into promoting the agenda (plus a little "help me refine some psychology software that I have been developing") over education on the topics. Since I was more than halfway through I finished watching all of the lectures, but found myself rolling my eyes more and more frequently. But, I have seen that kind of thing in in-person courses, as has my perpetual grad student brother.

I have applied for the Udacity/GATech Online Master of CS program. If I get in, since I will be paying money, I will take it more seriously than I have the other MOOCs that I have taken.

free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45453343)

Nothing in life is absolutely 'free' without some cost somewhere. Grow up and get used to it...

Easy Fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45453407)

Students can fake the results in the research surveys to corrupt the statistical information then publish the fact that a portion of the individuals in the survey's are falsifying the information.

Research becomes invalidated because there is zero confidence in the results.

IRB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45453707)

Presumably, they want to publish a paper based on the data they collect. Presumably, their educational institution has some form of Institutional Review Board, which is required by federal law for anything using human experimentation. This applies even if its something as banal as handing out a survey. Yes, the IRB might have rubber stamped the application, but still, there should be filings, etc.

Has someone asked?

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