stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Fri Sep 27 17:21:25 AEST 2013

Regarding MOOCS, I generally tend to agree with Tom ..

* Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) are not the future,
* eBooks and Social media are the future of education,
* Also: e-Portfolios, Cloud based LMS & Portable course-ware.
* Massive Open Online Courses use synchronised asynchronous e-learning and
  a highly structured approach which can be used as an easy introduction
  to e-learning. www.tomw.net.au/technology/it/online_education_revolution

So, with time available for learning and personal development, MOOCs can
be, and it currently seems are being used largely as a great way to gain
over-all yet also in-depth academic tastes of as yet personally unexplored
academic areas and disciplines. And, with a universal world access, surely
this can only be a good thing.

So, take what you need from them, eg, just-in-time learning. Alternatively 
suck academic areas for free to see if they suit, then knuckle down within 
more traditional learning environments, and gain an academic certification.

Either way, in world terms, it's win-win. And in my opinion, roll-on MOOCs!

"A Surge in Growth for a New Kind of Online Course"
The New York Times. By ALAN FINDER, Published: September 25, 2013 (snip)

ONLINE course work has been a staple of American higher education for at 
least a decade. But over the last few years, a new, more ambitious variant 
known as a MOOC — massive open online course — has challenged traditional 
assumptions of what an online course can be. MOOCs have exploded in that 
short time, redefining who can enroll in college courses, as well as where, 
when and even why people take online classes.

Available globally to hundreds of thousands of people at a time, these 
classes depend on highly sophisticated digital technology, yet they could 
not be simpler to use. Signing up takes less time than creating an iTunes 
account. You can create a user name and password and start exploring the 
rapidly expanding course offerings.

The major Web sites already provide dozens of courses, as diverse as basic 
calculus and European intellectual history. It is both new and 
experimental, and as much as MOOCs have evolved since beginning in recent 
years, enthusiasts expect many more changes. From an early focus on 
technical and scientific courses, for instance, offerings now include the 
humanities and social sciences.

While there are some significant differences among the major MOOC Web 
sites, they share several main elements. Courses are available to anyone 
with access to the Internet. They are free, and students receive a 
certificate of completion at the end. With rare exceptions, you cannot earn 
college credit for taking one of these courses, at least for now.

“For a decade, people have been asking, ‘How does the Internet change 
higher education,’ ” said Edward B. Rock, a law professor at the University 
of Pennsylvania who is the institution’s senior adviser on open course 
initiatives. “This is the beginning. It opens up all sorts of 

Navigating the world of MOOCs begins with three major Web sites.


Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created this 
nonprofit joint venture in May 2012. It has already offered dozens of 
courses in subjects as diverse as physics, computer science, engineering, 
literature, ethics, law, medicine and economics.

Twenty-nine universities have signed up to participate, including the 
University of California, Berkeley; the University of Texas, Austin; 
Georgetown; Cornell; the Berklee College of Music; the University of 
Toronto; and the University of Kyoto.

Courses are offered for a designated period of time, with lectures and 
reading assignments provided in weekly segments. Videos of lectures are 
generally augmented with exercises, quizzes, labs and simulators. Like 
other platforms, edX emphasizes interactivity.

You can audit a course — meaning you don’t take exams or do writing 
assignments — or you can fulfill all of the requirements to earn a 
certificate of completion.

Each course’s home page provides an estimate of how many hours a week the 
course will require. Workloads vary widely. A Global History of 
Architecture, an M.I.T. class, requires at least five hours a week. 
Introduction to Computer Science, Harvard’s traditional introductory 
course, asks online students to complete eight problem sets, each of which 
will take 15 to 20 hours, along with two quizzes and a final project.


Two computer science professors at Stanford began this commercial venture 
in April 2012. The original partners were Stanford, Princeton, the 
University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan. Seventeen months 
later, Coursera has partnerships with 84 universities and offers more than 
400 courses.

Yale, Duke, Wisconsin and the University of Chicago are among the 
participants, as are the University of Edinburgh and the École 
Polytechnique in France.

Because courses are free, Coursera hopes to generate revenue in other ways, 
like linking corporations with students who have learned specific skills. 
Coursera does not formally offer the option of auditing a class, but people 
certainly can. Anyone can simply watch the videos and do some, all or none 
of the reading and homework; you just would not receive a certificate at 
the end.

Like edX, Coursera emphasizes interactivity, both online and by helping to 
organize in-person study groups in cities around the world. There are also 
online discussion groups, peer-to-peer forums and peer assessments of 
writing assignments in some classes.

Among the 70 or so courses that began this month are Introduction to 
International Criminal Law; Linear and Integer Programming; and Exploring 
Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. Courses run for a set length, with material 
provided each week. Some last four or five weeks, while many go for 12 to 
15 weeks.


This is also a commercial start-up. It was begun by several people, 
including another Stanford professor, in January 2012. Udacity’s offerings 
are more limited, with a strong emphasis on science, math and computer 
science. There is also a sprinkling of business, psychology and design 
courses. About 30 courses are available.

The courses do not start or end on specific dates and they do not follow a 
weekly pattern of lectures and assignments. They are entirely self-paced: 
You start whenever you like, and you work through the material as quickly 
or as slowly as you please.

On the home page of an introductory course in computer science, Professor 
David Evans of the University of Virginia encourages students to 
collaborate and explains how his MOOC class is different from a traditional 

“We intersperse our video segments with interactive questions,” Dr. Evans 
writes. “There are many reasons for including these questions: to get you 
thinking, to check your understanding, for fun, etc. But really, they are 
there to help you learn. They are NOT there to evaluate your intelligence, 
so try not to let them stress you out.”

There are sites that offer things similar to massive open online courses. 

Udemy offers a huge variety of courses, primarily in practical subjects 
like Excel software or using an iPhone camera. Most of these courses carry 
fees, and most of the teachers are not university professors. The Kahn 
Academy Web site offers more than 4,000 short videos on a variety of 
academic subjects.

Al Filreis, a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania whose 
MOOC on modern and contemporary American poetry attracted 21,000 
participants last fall, offered some tips for choosing from the hundreds of 
courses available:

* Watch the professor’s introductory video.

* Examine the syllabus to determine how much work will be required and the 
level at which the course will be taught.

* Try to determine how involved the professor will be in the course.

* Research the professor by looking at the traditional university courses 
he or she teaches and reading an article or essay by the professor.

* Search the Web for course reviews. A few Yelp-like Web sites have been 
created to offer individuals’ assessments of these courses, like 

Much has been made about the large dropout rate in this kind of class; as 
many as 90 percent of those who register for a class do not complete it. 

John C. Mitchell, Stanford’s vice provost for online learning, said surveys 
indicated that about 25 percent of MOOC enrollees do much of the work, 
without necessarily finishing the course.

Many enthusiasts insist that there is nothing wrong with trying out several 
courses and completing only one, or simply watching lectures until you run 
out of time. “Sign up for anything that appeals to you and quit when you 
get bored,” said Cathy N. Davidson, an English professor at Duke who 
teaches and takes open online courses.

Michael S. Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, is teaching a course 
in European intellectual history on Coursera. “People have to get over the 
idea of signing up for a course and not finishing it,” he said. 

“We all have to get over feeling guilty. There is no right way or wrong way 
to use an online class. This is a great platform for lifelong learning.”



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