Lessons Learned: MOOC Edition


Justin Reich on Education Weekly has been blogging about what the last two years of MOOC research seems to tell us about how to improve the design of courses. Here is my bulleted list version:

1. MOOC students are diverse, but trend towards auto-didacts

2. MOOC students value flexibility, but benefit when they engage frequently

3. The best predictor of persistence and completion is intention, though every activity predicts every other activity

4. MOOC students (tell us they) leave because they get busy with other things, but we may be able to help them stay on track

5. Students learn more from doing than watching

6. Lots of student learning activities are happening beyond our observation: including note-taking, socializing, and using other references

Improving student learning outcomes will require measuring learning, experimenting with different approaches, and baking research into courses from the beginning

REich is doing a separate post for each with data and commentary that is worth reading. For example, in his fifth post, Students learn more from doing than watching he writes that if we have a choice to take two different approaches to building a method to produce MOOCs, which path seems to produce better results?

A. Make a big investment in video production (editors, videographers etc.) and use basic assessment and discussion features available through the MOOC platform.

B. Focus on developing interactive activities with instructors doing simple screencasts or lectures.

You'd have to agree with Reich that if you have limited resources (money and people) "B' is the way to go. But even if you have the resources, there is evidence that you should go with "B."

A group from Carnegie Mellon University published a paper "Learning is not a Spectator Sport: Doing is Better than Watching for Learning in a MOOC" in which they compared students who did activities in a MOOC with students who watched videos. They found that students who did activities outperformed those who did not, even those who watched lots of videos. Despite the heavy investment and emphasis on video in many MOOCs, students need to do things in order to learn.

Do you have a big, "Duh. We knew that" reaction to that conclusion? Maybe, but plenty of MOOCs and just plain old online courses are enamored with bigtime video productions for online learning.



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