CSG Winter 2012 – Policy Discussion on MOOCs

Policy discussion – MOOCs

Courses are all very large enrollments (100k +), based on institutional content. Also seeing specific modules being deployed for residential learning.

What are the challenges for institutional IT?

When we get to the point where it’s not just freebies given to anonymous users, and want to use them for our students, we are facing big identity management issues – do we need federated identity for MOOCs?

Issues around support – is there funding? Some are focusing on very heavily produced – one figure is that for every hour of MOOC course time it takes 9-12 hours of staff time. $8-12k per course. Faculty will want to redo courses periodically, so it becomes a compound interest type of curve. In a few years you will be doing a whole lot of courses.

MOOCs have generated faculty interest in flipped courses, and that’s creating demand which can’t always be supported.

Not all the courses are so highly produced – the AI course from Stanford is the professor in front of his web cam.

Some schools are making self-production facilities available for faculty. It’s taking a lot of faculty time to rethink material into smaller chunks and tailored for online. Some faculty want very highly produced material – this will be all over the map for some time. For some faculty it’s very difficult to teach without a class of students in front of them.

How do we evaluate the quality of courses? This gives schools of education an opportunity to do research.

Retention rates for many courses are in the single digits. Many of the students are international, so it’s a different kind of student body.

Wall Street Journal did an article on business models for MOOCs, and there’s an Educause Executive Briefing – What Campus Leaders Need to Know About Moocs.

Some of the courses have experienced a high degree of mentorship among the students from people with a lot of professional experience in the field – but will that persist when the novelty wears off? But it will be sustainable if they replay the course in subsequent iterations.

Dan Russell at Google has been running several rounds of a MOOC course on how to search well (http://www.google.com/insidesearch/landing/powersearching.html ) – it’s about an eight hour course. He makes a point that a lot of the potential is that with these enormous enrollments you get a good deal of feedback about what works and what doesn’t. When you combine a commitment to capitalize on that feedback with the fact that these courses are dealing with technical areas that evolve rapidly it means that you’ll be doing a lot of revision on these courses. The more you invest in production values the more you’re taking a do it once and done approach that makes it hard to revise.

You want to be careful about your digital asset management – e.g. keep the talking head and the slides as separate streams so you can revise them separately. When you think of these as living things you can structure them in ways that allow for continual revision.

Some people think of these more as next generation textbooks, which is highly produced as a product that people will treat as definitive. That approach may be antithetical to the ways millennials want to learn.

You have to be careful about how you set up the course, in terms of what you do if people fail quizzes, etc.

Who gets any revenue generated from these courses? Is it more like textbooks (revenue goes to faculty), or class materials (institution owns).

What are the reasons institutions are participating? Brand enhancement, a sense that there’s something new and important starting and they want to part of the conversation.

In some fields employers will be setting up their own training environments and hiring star teachers to teach skills to employees, e.g. Cisco University


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