Can’t follow directions

Let’s look to the future, shall we? I know we are early in the process, and I for one have very little clue about what the “online content” of our course should or will be. However, I am equally concerned about the in-class (“f2f”!) content as well. You see, I read the NY Times op-ed “Revolution Hits the Universities” by Thomas Friedman  and have been wondering about what sets a bricks & mortar university apart from MOOCs. I’m all for democratizing education, but in this op-ed, the argument that MOOCs are somehow important because 40,000 students can sign up for a free course seems like empty bean counting  Sure, this avoids Pitfall #3 “Avoid being the sage on the stage”, but certainly exacerbates Pitfalls #1 and #4. How can any person provide meaningful feedback to 40,000 students? Crowd-sourcing the grading of a writing assignment for a “class” of this size would be fraught with all sorts of problems, so would these courses simply be examples of filling “student containers” with content? I think the in-class portion of a blended course is where the B&M university can earn its pay and is one important place where tuition paying students should/will be able to perceive the value of their education. I know that hybrid courses and MOOCs are employing different paths to different ends, but if a goal of education is to teach students how to think, I hope to learn in this workshop how to reinforce thinking in both the f2f and online environments for different class sizes up to large “lecture” courses.

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2 Responses to Can’t follow directions

  1. Eric says:

    This is an excellent point about the role of universities and in person classes going forward. I think your point that courses are about teaching students how to think is important. Educational research shows how hard it is to help an individual student think in a particular way given great deals of instruction. It is no surprise that recreating this at scale is a complicated problem. One thing that educational research identifies repeatedly is that students’ engagement is important. I think any mechanism that allows us to help students think in face to face courses and online courses requires a focus on increasing student engagement. The hybrid model is an excellent way to explore some of these issues.

  2. joy says:

    I appreciate your comments about MOOCs and I have been wondering the same things. They seem to be an economical way for students to gain knowledge for introductory or background material – learning objectives being at the base of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I think the expanding availability of online courses challenges us (at B&M) to incorporate higher level thinking as well as folding in “soft skills” that will help the students succeed beyond the classroom. We must provide more value than what could be gleaned from just sitting in front of the computer…..

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