“How Free Online Courses Are Changing the Traditional Liberal Arts Education” – my doubts


Excerpts [bold mine]:

“SPENCER MICHELS: Those lofty goals, the experience of teaching thousands of students, and the possibility of future profits, are what got these courses going. Professors from top universities are signing up, even though they are not paid by the providers. Eventually, universities may share revenues they receive — when there are revenues — with the professors. And those star professors have inspired intense student interest in the courses, says Coursera’s other co-founder, Andrew Ng.”

“SPENCER MICHELS: MOOC startups are still trying to figure out how to make money. Udacity is getting revenue from several companies like Google to provide specialized courses. Coursera is charging potential employers for providing names of high-scoring students. And, eventually, students may pay for credits transferable to colleges. So far, students can earn only a certificate when they complete a course. Almost no colleges are giving credit for MOOCs, at least not yet.

At Stanford and other elite universities around the country, undergraduate tuition, plus room and board, runs about $54,000 a year. At Berkeley, a public university, it’s around $30,000, depending on where you live. The big question is, what do you get for that that a free online course with a stellar professor wouldn’t give you?”

SUSAN HOLMES, Stanford University: I don’t think that you can give a Stanford education online, in the same way as I don’t think that Facebook gives you a social life.

[…] SPENCER MICHELS: But even more important, Holmes is worried that MOOCs could damage a key university goal: providing a liberal arts education, where students learn to write and express themselves.

SUSAN HOLMES: And that is done with interaction with the students. The professors meet with the students, advise the students, and the students also have their colleagues to talk to, their peers.

SPENCER MICHELS: The difficulty of providing personal contact also concerns Coursera’s founders, but they think they are addressing it with online study groups or forums.

ANDREW NG: Learning is social, and we learn best when we have classmates to discuss things with. When you teach a class of 100,000 students, what that means is that, if there’s a student thinking about some topic, no matter what time of day you’re awake thinking about it, there will be someone in some time zone awake thinking about the same thing as you are. They can discuss it with you.

SPENCER MICHELS: Still, the problem of personal contact is getting lots of attention from students and from teachers.

WALTER SINNOTT-ARMSTRONG: We cannot answer e-mails from students, so please do not e-mail us individually. There will be discussion forums where you can go and talk to other students about the material in the course.

TRACY LIPPINCOTT: The thing that I really miss is actually personal contact with the professor. I like to be able to get personalized advice from the person who’s in charge, and maybe just a little of like a thumbs-up, you know, just a little bit of positive reinforcement. But in terms of, like, between students, you can create that.” [but not in the same way]

A related issue for MOOCs: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/how-to-make-sure-online-students-dont-cheat/


http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/beyond-mooc-model-changing-educational-paradigms – great article – tries to strike a balance between fear-mongering and the obvious problems with current MOOCs


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