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MOOCs: Expectations and Reality

In spite of (because of?) significant media attention, the dialogue around MOOCs has been more theoretical than informed. Research is lagging well behind rhetoric. Fortunately, that is starting to change. Fiona Hollands and Devayani Tirthali from Teachers College, Columbia University, have released what is the most informed analysis of MOOCs that I have read to date: MOOCs: Expectations and Reality (.pdf). My only quibble is with the attempt of Andrew Ng (Coursera) to rename xMOOCs as Modern MOOCs. It’s a language game (“Freedom Fries”) that belies what anyone acquainted with learning sciences knows: the xmooc format is a pedagogical regression. Very little modern about it.

From the report:

To date, there has been little evidence collected that would allow an assessment of whether MOOCs do indeed provide a cost-effective mechanism for producing desirable educational outcomes at scale. It is not even clear that these are the goals of those institutions offering MOOCs. This report investigates the actual goals of institutions creating MOOCs or integrating them into their programs, and reviews the current evidence regarding whether and how these goals are being achieved, and at what cost.