There is quite a bit in the way of speculation and somewhat less in the way of information out there about MOOCs, and so it’s great to see reports like this one from the University of Edinburgh.
The report is an overview of experience from their first 6 courses offered through Coursera. Well worth reading the entire report, but a few bits that stood out:
- “One spin-off from our early engagement with MOOCs has been a lively internal debate about pedagogy, online learning and costs/benefits of university education.”
- “Based on local experience with taught online courses and participation in early MOOCs, we decided to develop only short duration courses, 5-7 weeks in length. We expected this to aid retention of participants by giving them an easily manageable timeframe for their learning commitment.”
- “All Edinburgh MOOCs were designed from scratch, drawing where appropriate on existing academic programmes but in the main being created expressly to be new MOOCs rather than adaptations of existing courses.”
- “It surprised us that so many of our learners appeared to be very well educated despite the undergraduate entry-level of five of the MOOCs.”
- “It is probably reasonable to view these MOOC learners as more akin to lifelong learning students in traditional universities than to students on degree programmes, which is a common comparison being made.”
- “There was some evidence that the respondents of the Exit survey were more independent that social learners, with high self-reported time spent on videos and quizzes and less on social activities.”
In these outtakes, and throughout the report, the Edinburgh team struggles with the issues confronting almost all MOOC providers: What students are we trying to serve? What is the best format? How do these courses relate to traditional offerings? What are the implications of all of this on how we teach our traditional students? Kudos to Edinburgh for being open about these struggles.