Is EdX the Answer to the Future of Higher Education?

A recent study by Harvard and MIT determined that Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) should not be judged by completion rates. If you follow MOOCs you know that precious few people actually complete the MOOCs for which they sign up. There are a lot of pro and con arguments for how MOOCs should be assessed and measured. No technology lover wants to ask if the proposed MOOC model is valuable to an average student in Higher Education. Another story in The Chronicle of Higher Education details how demographic shifts in population will make students poorer and possibly less ready for college. While MOOC proponents are quick to seize on the reduced costs of MOOCs they never mention how terrible the pedagogy of a 50,000 to 1 faculty ratio might be for an at-risk freshman.

George Siemens offered the first real “MOOC” and he and Steven Downes seem to have taken a lot pride in promulgating a design that connected the students within the course to one another to facilitate learning in many ways. Somewhere along the development path for MOOCs the Ivy League/Stanford/MIT universities got involved (admirably) to forward the idea of achieving a college education for everyone. Unfortunately, this star power alliance completely overlooked the role of professor to facilitate interaction with other students and co-opted MOOCs as “you can take a class from our star professor…”

Does an at-risk kid (for not completing college) really need to be in a class with 50,000  other students across the globe taught by a Nobel Laureate? No offense to Harvard, but do they even know how to teach students who are much closer to dropping out than to starting Facebook? If you’re a fledgling computer science major at a community college, struggling with Calculus and Java programming, will Daphne Koller’s theories make  sense to you? Truthfully, although Koller is the co-founder of Coursera and a brilliant Computer Scientist, she might not be the best solution to keeping economically challenged kids in college.

Here’s my advice to EdX: be more like George Siemens and less like the “sage on the stage”.

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