The Changing Faces of MOOCs

Photo credit: leted, CC BY-NC 2.0
,Changing faces or evolution? In the “The Pedagogy of MOOCs“, Paul Stacey extols the pedagogy employed by the early developers of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) who, according to Degree of freedom, extended a connectivist vision by creating an environment in which participants share information and engage in joint teaching and learning experiences through technological social networking. I wonder if perhaps the subject of the majority of these cMOOCs had anything to do with this, many being about education and learning theory. While some of the more recent developments are more professor-centred, they’re calling them xMOOCs, such as the majority of the Udacity courses, are primarily in computer related subjects which might be more likely to attract less socially-minded students, or am I just stereotyping?
I find it interesting that David Cormier video on 5 steps to success in a MOOC put the onus on the student to build interaction by starting a blog, building a network and nurturing a cluster of like-learners. This presumes a blogging-minded group of self-motivated learners. It’s pretty impressive that students of Udacity courses have organized themselves into study groups and Udacity supports this by providing a community site.  I took one of those accidental diversions that sometimes happen on the web and ended up at the MeetUp website where I looked for groups interested in statistics (I had recently taken a Udacity course in statistics) around the globe, and found there were 100s from Victoria to Mumbai and 11 within 100 miles of me. If I was seriously interested in the study of statistics then this would be pretty cool!

It appears that the social component of online learning – blogs, chat, discussion forums, wikis – can be set up for global classrooms and require minimal maintenance, but group assignments would seem to require some oversight which wouldn’t be available for a free program? How do you bring that approach to the 160,000 students from 190 countries taking a course like the Introduction to Artificial Intelligence taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig as a Stanford MOOC? And as Chantelle pointed out in “Wading Through the Muck…er MOOCs, these Massive Open Online Course cannot reach their extraordinary potential for bringing all the benefits of higher education to the masses unless the learning is recognized by on-ground institutions but how can a student gain credit without some form of assessment and how do you go about assessing 160,000 students?