Salmon (2011) suggests that there has been an increase in availability of high quality open educational resources on the web support VLE’s in providing ‘content’ to learners (Salmon, 2011). In this project I intend to specifically address the issue of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) in providing content to learners and explore the challenges they present in the education sector. In doing so I will review at how sector has responded to the presence of MOOCs and analyse the challenges to teaching and effectiveness in supporting learning.
For institutions wishing to create their own MOOCs teaching staff are challenged with developing a whole new set of skills. The successful MOOCs created at University of Stanford in 2011 were structured so that lectures were broken down from 2 or 3 slots of 45 minutes, into up to 20 short videos which used effective visual aids and embedded questions for comprehension checks (Martin, 2012). As the programme was written around one week ahead of delivery the teachers were able to respond to learners needs effectively and build in learners requirements to future sessions (Martin, 2012). This approach whilst experimental, given that the programme was not pre-planned or fixed, mirrors conventional style of teaching and on the surface appears to be learner focussed. However this presents challenges to teachers who use the existing material with a new group of students and Martin (2012) reflects on his approach to using the Stanford material with his own students at UMass Lowell, suggesting that classroom time was used to discuss the material and to clarify understanding in order to ensure learner focus (Martin, 2012).
Severance (2012) in his interview with Daphne Koller professor in the department of Computer Science at Stanford, illustrates the moment of realisation that the traditional approach to teaching could be effectively turned on its head where lectures are watched outside the classroom to free up the time for more effective classroom interaction,
All of a sudden it came to me that instead of delivering the same lecture I had been giving for 15 years, telling the same jokes at the same time, maybe we could flip the classroom. (Severance, 2012, p. 8)
Given the growth of informal learning through the web there are many advantages the MOOC presents to a learners and there has been much debate on how effectively these might prepare learners for higher education. If we examine the availability of MOOCs in the context of ‘learners as co-developers of learning resources’ (Collis & Moonen, 2006, p. 1) and Sfard’s pedagogical models of acquisition and participation, the MOOC fails to give learners sufficient opportunity to participate in learning ‘becoming a member of a community of practice, learning from the community and also contributing to it.’ (Collis & Moonen, 2006, p. 3). Collis and Moonen suggest that course management systems which limit learners in terms of ‘what and where they can make a contribution are not well designed for a contribution approach’ (Collis & Moonen, 2006, p. 11). The MOOCs developed at Stamford in 2011 and described by Martin (2012) in Will Massive Open Online Courses Change the Way We Teach?, illustrate very little participation or contribution by the learner. Martin (2012) goes on to suggest other limitations of the MOOC,
The MOOC concept does not even attempt to address the role of small, research-oriented project based course. (Martin, 2012, p. 28)
To suggest that the MOOC should be a panacea to online learning is unrealistic and given that it is such a recent phenomenon and in such early stages of development. On balance despite the need for teacher’s professional development, the birth of the MOOC heralds a new and exciting time in the development of e-learning, supporting how technology can enhance learning.
Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2006). The Contributing Student: Learners as co-developers of learning resources for reuse in web environments. Retrieved 7 18, 2007, from http://www.e-learningplaza.nl/elp3/artikelen/.show_art.asp?
Martin, F. G. (2012). Education Will Massive Open Online Courses Change How We Teach? Communications of the ACM , 55 (8), 26-28.
Salmon, G. (2011). e moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online. New York: Routledge.
Severance, C. (2012). Teaching the World: Daphne Koller and Coursera. Computing Conversations , 45 (8), 8-9.