This is my response to the article that came out on Monday August 13, 2012 in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled Why Online Education Won’t Replace College—Yet

First off I think the title is extremely misleading – the arthor came to him conclusion by taking two classes at Udacity a provider of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s). So the title should really be “Why MOOC’s Won’t Replace College – Yet” or even better “Why Udacity Won’t Replace College – Yet”.  Online courses come in many shapes and sizes and throughout the whole article he is only referencing his experience at Udacity, thus only talking about MOOC’s and one MOOC in specific.

Also based on his points he has never taken an online class ever or taught one because the issues are ones that fall into classes of 100 students online and there are ways to counteract them.

To his points:

1. It’s too easy to cheat. There are soo many ways to make an online class uncheatable or at least reduce the desire/capacity to cheat. And this was the first time these courses were ever offered, I’m sure the folks at Udacity were learning how students interacted/learned and use the system and will make it 10 times better the 2nd & 3rd time its offered. The author isn’t stating anything new either. This has been an issues since university classes first went online 10+ years ago. Does his school not offer online classes?

Tips for making online classes less cheatable:

  • online quizzes with large question pools so all the students do not get the same questions
  • assignments that are uncheatable – forum or website commenting, Twitter, group projects
  • peer grading
  • have access to essay graders that check for plagiarism.
  • computer software that monitors the student – webcam, desktop monitors, etc.
2. Star students can’t shine. There are plenty of ways for the professor to get to know the students online – participate in the forum with the student, hold online office hours, etc.
In the student’s instance they can be more participatory in activities and helping other student out. I do believe there are ways to students to shine – take the prof I work for who teach 2750 live. Yes he does not know every student in the class, but the ones who shine he does. Those are the student who communicate with him all the time – they ask questions after class, email him, say hi walking across campus, reach out on social media. He will know the shining students by the end of the semester.
3. Employers avoid weird people.  ”MOOC’s are the nose rings of higher education.”  Wow, you’ve got to be kidding. Or they could be people who are passionate about learning and usually are highly disciplined to be able to take a course on their own without being force into class 2-3 times a week. They are the people who want to better themselves in some skill and are motivated to do that. The author argument here is pretty irrelevant.
4. Computers can’t grade everything. I agree with this statement, but they can grade a hell of a lot. But that’s why you incorporate assignments with peer grading. Students are learning from each other and I remember reading somewhere (but can’t find the source) that they tend to grade the assignments harder than the professor would. They have higher expectation of themselves and their peers…and thats awesome! Also students tend to write better when they know more people are going to read their work rather than just one professor.
5. Money can substitute for ability. ”If college is cheap, students have a strong incentive to spend those savings on anything that can give them an edge over their fellow students.” I guess, but isn’t a better statement that if college is cheap more people will have access to it and we’ll have a smarter population as a whole? And so what if they spend the money on a tutor, every student gets access to the same material. Isn’t this how public school works?

So yea in conclusion I don’t really agree with his title or points. It’s year 1 of MOOCs – they can only get better and I think they will be incorporated more into college curriculum or develop their own certification.

 

 

 

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