I love Coursera. It offers courses which, I think, are evolutionary. It is true that the courses are non-credit or cannot replace a university course, but they give learners and designers of the course freedom. It is the freedom to be creative for the sake of better learning and teaching. It is also the freedom to break traditional pathways of education so as to prove that other teaching and learning methods exist, and they do work.
I have taken many of the Coursera courses. Most of them are truly effective while some of them need improvement. I am not going to name the poorly designed MOOCs. Rather, I want to state one of the possible predictions about the future of Massive Open Online Courses.
Poorly designed courses simply take the traditional approaches. This idea of mine can be summed up with these keywords: lectures, quizzes and discussions. The worst thing about this is that if you have taken highly interesting and engaging courses, you simply lose your motivation to study in these “lectures, quizzes and discussions” types of MOOCs. Some may argue that motivation to learn in the MOOCs may depend on how important the course is to you. I admit this. However, if university instructors design their MOOCs with this kind of “take it or leave it” attitude, I do not see that they will achieve something worthy for their time and expertise. They just advertise their institutions. Then these MOOCs just become a propaganda. A propaganda that is worthy of high-quality video lectures, a free access to textbooks and so on.
Lack of creativity in terms of integrating new tasks, assignments and assessments in these MOOCs can be related to the factor whether course designers previously had online teaching experience. I do not have any survey results to refer so that I can show having online teaching experience can enable instructors design effective MOOCs. Yet, having taught online for some time, I came to realize this. If it is also argued that teaching online does not matter, but good teaching matters, I would thumb up!
I do appreciate that the poorly designed MOOCs, or MOOCs in general, providing a free access to the great ideas, content and scholarly conversations. However, for this reason, at the same time, they have become disruptive to higher education. For now, MOOCs can be disruptive; yet, I see the future of MOOCs as not disruptive, yet beneficial. There will be something that universities can take advantage of.
My prediction is that MOOCs can enable course instructors to experiment new ways of teaching and learning including from new types of assessment to new types of assignments. It can only be done when the instructors believe in what they are doing. The result of these implementations will then serve a useful purpose in improving university courses. There will be responsibility, of course. However, the result of the pilot can be mutually understandable between the learner and teacher in the MOOCs. Hence, whenever the learners signs up for a course, they agree to “Terms of Learning”. It will be an agreement that introduces learners with the conditions of learning such as the current course may include piloting.
There was such an attempt in one of the Coursera MOOCs: Teaching Goes Massive: New Skills Required. The course instructor announced that his course is an experiment. What he wanted was to try some new experiments. This is a video from the course lecture that shows what he intended to do.
Unfortunately, Paul’s experiment was a failure for some reasons. However, what his idea of experiment tells us is that in the future MOOCs can provide opportunities to pilot some innovative ways of teaching and learning. The pilot results can then be used to improve the university courses.
I’m interested in reading what you think about the future of MOOCs.