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Applying MOOC Lessons to Traditional Classrooms: Tips for Teachers

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One of the great benefits afforded by the current generation of MOOCs is their transparency. Top tier universities have embraced the first open-registration platforms as large-scale experiments that might help them in the future while promoting their brands worldwide. Beyond the news and public debates about the size of classes and what this means for the future of education, a set of practical methods for delivering online courses has emerged. If you are a teacher, whether in high school, in college or in other educational settings such as workplace training programs, there are lessons from MOOCs that might help you more effectively engage your students. Keep in mind that many recent MOOC experiments started as systems designed to support classroom learning. Here are some tips that jump out of the research we have reviewed, the interviews we have conducted...

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Cutting the Strings: MOOCs and the Unbundling of Online Education

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Do recent reports that San Jose State University would “take a breather” from for-credit MOOCs indicate that online learning isn’t ready for prime time? As MOOC experiments proliferate, teachers, administrators and accreditation officials are carefully monitoring each new revelation. Until now, the major platforms (Coursera, Udacity and edX) have been portrayed as similarly organized curriculum machines that stamp out high quality results at each turn. I expect this perception will change as they and other platforms become more clearly defined. The saying goes that customers in new markets tend to embrace “all-in-one” solutions: they like a one stop shop. As a market becomes more sophisticated, selective customers prefer to assemble separate components into a system that works best for their particular needs. This perspective has held true for many markets, including home stereo systems, bicycles and computers. Likewise, educational...

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MOOC Production Values: Costs, Approaches and Examples

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At every MOOC-related event I attend, I meet people who say they want to teach online classes. Most are affiliated with a university or school, and often some plans seem imminent, but I rarely hear about new courses sprouting up outside of the most high-profile MOOC platforms. For all the interest in MOOCs, there is precious little guidance for teachers on how to produce them. I hope to give some good examples to follow here. Even for students, it’s worth watching how MOOCs are produced with an eye on the educational goals, production elements and the resources employed. Beware: MOOC production is a LOT of work Briefly stated, producing a MOOC forces even top-notch professors to “up their game.” Because of the massive scale they provide, Coursera and edX have successfully recruited the “cream of the crop” from leading...

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Effective Habits of Power Users: A Look At Recent MOOC Research

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Recently published research on student behavior in the first edX MOOC reveals some interesting insights about the persistence of  certificate earners and about the time they put into the various course activities. “Learning in the Worldwide Classroom: Research Into edX’s First MOOC” was produced by a group of MIT and Harvard researchers, led by Lori Breslow, director of MIT’s Teaching and Learning Laboratory, and published in the summer 2013 issue of RPA Journal from Research & Practice in Assessment. The analysis looked at Circuits and Electronics (6.002x), taught in early 2012 by edX President Anant Agarwal to nearly 155,000 students, and they particularly focused on the 7,100 students who earned a certificate for passing the course. The researchers chose to focus on the behavior of these successful students in order to identify common traits or behaviors. Even a casual observer...

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Extracurriculars: Do Massive Courses Make Digital Sharecropping More Efficient?

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Ever since Colorado State University – Pueblo Professor Jonathan Rees brought up the term “digital sharecropping” in a Twitter response to my earlier discussion of peer assessment in MOOCs, I’ve been watching how student work is being used outside the MOOC. While the term digital sharecropping is relatively new, the practice of using students to do real work has been around for ages. So, it makes sense to illustrate the changing nature of employment and how MOOC students are engaging in work while in class. Let’s start by looking at who works for internet companies. Mary Meeker of the VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers puts out yearly slide decks that serve as benchmarks for internet trends. On slide #6 of the 2013 deck she lists the leading consumer internet properties by how many individuals use these services...

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Massive MOOC Grading Problem – Stanford HCI Group Tackles Peer Assessment

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Six weeks into Coursera’s Passion Driven Statistics course from Wesleyan University, students received a notice that they would participate in a new kind of peer-based grading exercise for their final projects. While nothing has been said publicly about the experiment until now, this marks a radical departure from the usual quiz-based examinations provided by MOOCs. What is different about this approach, and why is it worth watching even in its first commercial implementations? In this column I will explore the process they are testing and examine the potential for peer assessments to change how MOOCs are used. If you are thinking about what course to take next, check to see if you too can be involved in peer assessments. The problem with grading thousands of student projects College course grades are often the result of subjective comments and assessments by...

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Not All Online Students Are the Same: A Summary of Stanford’s MOOC User Study

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  At every class meetup I’ve attended with MOOC users, students ask each other what other courses they have taken, how the current course compares to those and whether they completed them. They often do, but many students also just audit or sample classes and then drop them very quickly. Now, new research from Stanford shows what those individual conversations suggest — that not all MOOC students are the same. A significant percentage of students engage in the course for social reasons and do not plan to do all the work required to finish. Some are drawn by the fame of the professor or are intrigued by the course topic. They might want to find out what all the fuss is about. Others know a thing or two about the topic and want to clean up some blind spots...

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