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Momenta Learning

A blog on topics related to E-learning, online education, and instructional design.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why I think MOOCs need to have a screening method

One of the issues haunting MOOCs is how to serve their large learner population. It can get overwhelming trying to serve each and every student in one of these online courses. They will all have questions at some point, and they want the answers fast, since most of these MOOC courses run for some weeks only. So, what are they doing now? Well, pretty much putting the burden in the student’s hands. In many cases the instructor has made clear that they will not be able to answer every question students post on the course site, they instead encourage student to post those questions in discussion forums with the goal that students themselves will help one another. This can be an example of good use of social networking tools, provided the student actually gets an answer from any of his/her fellow students. Instructors will focus on questions that catch their attention, which come from more experienced students, usually. So, a novice will spend a great deal of time reading discussion posts and chasing around people to get some answers, that is not a good use of a learner’s time.
One problem with MOOCs comes from its own basic goal: it is open to everybody, which means that a student can take any class even though he/she might not have the required background to take on such course. My feeling is that some kind of screening tools is necessary in this case, just because it is available to everyone does not mean that anyone can tackle any course. I am an engineer by training and I wouldn’t dare taking on a social studies class, but I am pretty sure there are people out there that do not think like me.
If MOOCs had some kind of wall that could be climbed only by those prepared enough, the class sizes will be reduced and maybe the instructor (or instructors in many cases) will give more attention to those students in the class, and maybe will provide more instructor-student contact time. But again, it is nice to get publicity because your MOOC course has 40,000 students enrolled, but how many of them are actually prepared to take such class? We don’t know.

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