This blog post from Dr. Keith Devlin, a mathematician at Stanford University, is great. I’ve had the same thoughts about humanities MOOCs that he has. You really need to craft a community of students to have them succeed. By crafting assignments and having tools available for them to interact in many ways with each other and the professor can help foster this.

From Dr. Devlin:

…having now completed my first MOOC, I am now even more convinced than previously that the eventual (we hope) success of MOOCs will be a consequence of Facebook (or social media in general) rather than of Internet video streaming.

The reason why I felt sure this would be the case is that (in most disciplines) the key to real learning has always been bi-directional human-human interaction (even better in some cases, multi-directional, multi-person interaction), not unidirectional instruction.

YES! I am all about maximizing the advantageous utility of social media and learning technologies to foster student/faculty and student/student engagement.

This is what I think MOOCs are struggling with and learning how it works as they go along. The computer science courses offered so far are linear/instructional learning – watch this, do this, and eventually you’ll have a program/website to show for it. There is not a lot of learning why, or applying critical thinking.

More from Dr. Devlin:

…while the popular image of a MOOC centers on lecture-videos and multiple-choice quizzes, what Humanities, Arts, and Science MOOCs (including mine) are about is community building and social interaction. For the instructor (and the very word “instructor” is hopelessly off target in this context), the goal in such a course is to create a learning community.

YES…again! John Boyer (prof I work with) have traveling regional, nationally, and internationally on using technology in the classroom and how we use these technologies to create communities within the course. Within a large class you’ll have many communities with hope that they’ll overlap and push towards an overall sense of community in a course. It all about getting the students engage with the material in different ways, and ways that they enjoy!



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