When MOOCs crash and burn
Jaschick, S. (2013) MOOC Mess, Inside Higher Education, February 4
Krause, S. (2013) Two Thoughts on the crash of the “Fundamentals of Online Education” MOOC Stevendkrause.com, February 4
Strauss, V. (2013) How online class about online learning failed miserably Washington Post, February 5
Well, it had to happen. You all probably know the story of the course on how to plan and manage online courses that wasn’t planned or managed. After two weeks, with 40,000 students online, this course from an instructor at the Georgia Institute of Technology really crashed and burned. The tool selected for group-work couldn’t handle the numbers, the faculty member was overwhelmed, so cancelled the course with barely an explanation.
Now I do feel sympathy not only with the students, but also with the instructor. I’ve made mistakes on my first online courses, but here are some questions that someone should be asking:
- Where is the quality control? Surely Coursera should accept some responsibility for this. They are getting paid by the institutions to host these courses. Shouldn’t they at least be asking some questions about what tools people are planning to use, and whether or not they will work with very large numbers? Are they doing due diligence before accepting and advertising their MOOCs? Apparently not. Nor did Georgia Institute of Technology. What has this done to its reputation?
- Are questions being asked about the qualifications or experience of the people who are offering MOOCs? Just a brief glance at this particular course suggests that the instrutor had little experience herself in planning and managing online courses. Georgia Institute of Technology is not at the top of my list of institutions with experience in online learning. But then, anyone can teach an online course about online learning, can’t they?
What really makes me angry is that badly designed MOOCs do such damage, both to their students and to the image of online learning. You just cannot go on ignoring best practice and hope to get away with it, especially with 40,000 students in the class.
Again, this is a classic example of the clash between computer scientists and educators. If you are trying out an app and it fails, no big deal, you’ve lost a bit of money – try another one. But in education you are playing with people’s hopes and dreams. Do the job properly.