June 7, 2013, 4:55 am
One of the first things researchers have learned about student success in massive open online courses is that in-person, one-on-one teaching still matters.
For online learners who took the first session of “Circuits & Electronics,” the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s hallmark MOOC, those who worked on course material offline with a classmate or “someone who teaches or has expertise” in the subject did better than those who did not, according to a new paper by researchers at MIT and Harvard University.
The research, published this week by the journal Research & Practice in Assessment, is one of the first peer-reviewed academic studies based on data from a MOOC. Advocates for the massive online courses have cited their potential value as engines of educational research.
The journal’s summer issue takes stock of MOOCs as a research medium and outlines an agenda for…
May 31, 2013, 4:55 am
As online courses multiply outside the formal structures of academe, professors increasingly have opportunities to earn cash on the side by freelancing.
Udemy, an online-education company, offers anyone, including professors, the chance to design and teach an online course. Instructors set the prices for their courses, which tend to run from about $30 to $100 per student, and take home 70 percent of the revenue.
The company’s latest recruiting strategy is to enter new instructors in a contest in which one of them will win $5,000 and the right to keep 100 percent of the revenue from his or her course for as long as the professor continues to teach it.
Udemy is just one of several options for professors who want to make money on freelance gigs. StraighterLine, a company that offers courses that are accepted for credit at some colleges, lets professors set a “premium” fee for…
May 24, 2013, 3:56 pm
Several dozen professors in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences have signed a letter to their dean asking for formal oversight of the massive open online courses offered by Harvard through edX, a MOOC provider co-founded by the university.
While “some faculty are tremendously excited about HarvardX,” the professors wrote, referring to the university’s brand within the edX platform, “other are deeply concerned about the program’s cost and consequences.”
The letter, published on Thursday in The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, was signed by 58 professors in the university division, which is known as the FAS.
The authors go on to ask Michael D. Smith, dean of the FAS, to appoint a committee of arts and sciences faculty members “to draft a set of ethical and educational principles” that would govern their colleagues’ involvement in…
May 21, 2013, 4:59 am
Robert Ghrist teaching at the U. of Pennsylvania. (Kelsh Wilson Design)
Robert Ghrist, a professor of mathematics and electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, knows that wielding vast networks on behalf of nonuniversity benefactors can be tricky business.
Mr. Ghrist specializes in applied topology, an abstract math field. In practice, topological math can help someone harness huge collections of sensory inputs—like those collected by cellphones, for example—to model large environments and solve problems.
The Department of Defense has enlisted Mr. Ghrist to do research along those lines. The Penn professor knows he has little power over how the Pentagon might use his insights. But he says that no longer bothers him.
“I have long ago dealt with the issue of: What if some…
May 16, 2013, 4:56 am
For all the star power harnessed by massive-open-online-course providers, Yale University has been a notable absence. While many of its elite peers scrambled to get out ahead of the MOOC wave, Yale bided its time.
That’s about to change. Yale announced on Wednesday that it would soon offer MOOCs through Coursera, the Silicon Valley-based company.
Yale plans to offer four courses beginning in January, focusing on constitutional law, financial markets, morality, and Roman architecture.
The move was a long time coming. Yale, which in 2007 became among the first institutions to make its course content available free on the Web with its Open Yale Courses lecture series, has taken a distinctly deliberate approach to MOOCs. Last fall it convened a faculty committee to recommend a broad online agenda that would encompass MOOCs as well as other forms of online teaching.
May 1, 2013, 4:55 am
Coursera, the massive-open-online-course provider, announced on Wednesday that it was expanding into teacher education.
The company said it would offer MOOCs taught by instructors in graduate programs at the Universities of California at Irvine, Virginia, and Washington; at the Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt Universities; and at some nonaffiliated organizations that train teachers.
The move marked a shift for the year-old company, which previously had focused on the traditional university curriculum. The new offerings will include practical courses—sample title, “Surviving Your Rookie Year of Teaching: Three Key Ideas and High Leverage Techniques,” from the nonprofit Match Education—as well as more-theoretical material, such as a course unit on early-childhood development from the University of Virginia.
Daphne Koller, a co-founder of Coursera, said the company saw the…
April 10, 2013, 3:34 pm
San Jose State University plans to widen its relationship with edX, the nonprofit provider of massive open online courses, and the California State University system is encouraging similar experiments on 11 other campuses.
The moves were announced on Wednesday, just two semesters after San Jose State began a pilot project with edX to improve teaching and learning in its own classrooms. The university will incorporate three to five new edX courses into its local curriculum next fall, including courses in the humanities and social sciences.
San Jose State last fall used material from an edX course, “Circuits & Electronics,” as part of a “flipped classroom” experiment in its own introductory course in electrical engineering. The university offered three versions of the course: two conventional face-to-face sections and one “blended” section, in which students watched edX…
April 8, 2013, 4:57 am
Philadelphia — Massive open online courses have gained renown among academics for their impressive enrollment figures and, conversely, their unimpressive completion rates.
What accounts for the high attrition in MOOCs, and what does it mean? Coursera and data researchers at several partner universities of the MOOC provider have begun trying to answer those questions by learning more about why students wash out of MOOCs—and what instructors and course designers could do to stem the tide.
Some of that research was on display over the weekend at Coursera’s first-ever partners’ conference, where MOOC professors, instructional designers, and various invited guests spent two days talking shop.
The data so far are preliminary. But the company believes that the low completion rates in its early courses should not be read—as many critics have done—as an indictment of the MOOC…
March 20, 2013, 4:55 am
The State University of New York’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday endorsed an ambitious vision for how SUNY might use prior-learning assessment, competency-based programs, and massive open online courses to help students finish their degrees in less time, for less money.
The plan calls for “new and expanded online programs” that “include options for time-shortened degree completion.” In particular, the board proposed a huge expansion the prior-learning assessment programs offered by SUNY’s Empire State College.
The system will also push its top faculty members to build MOOCs designed so that certain students who do well in the courses might be eligible for SUNY credit.
Ultimately, the system wants to add 100,000 enrollments within three years, according to a news release.
Even before the SUNY announcement, it had already been a big week for nontraditional models for…
March 17, 2013, 11:13 pm
National Harbor, Md. — Conservatives have long complained about a perceived liberal bias in higher education, and conservative parents might be especially irked to think that they are paying thousands of dollars in tuition only to have their children turned against them by a bunch of radical professors.
Jim Van Eerden has come up with a resource that he says will give conservative parents a chance to counteract any liberal indoctrination of their children before it happens. His plan would let parents deposit tuition money into a “scholarship” that would go to a child’s college only after the student had passed one or more short online courses offering a “more balanced” take on various issues.
Mr. Van Eerden, who serves as an “entrepreneur in residence” at Grove City College, a Christian college in Pennsylvania, has opened a nonprofit Web site, FreeThinkU, that offers almost 3…