Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Data Free Commitment; MOOCs Mania

I chased down on of the links from the Dan Little piece I posted yesterday to take a quick peek at the data backing up the recent rush to MOOCing the classroom. This paper by Bowen and Lack (BL) reviews the data, such as there is, reviewing studies on the topic. As BL note, there was not a lot to go on. Right now, MOOCs are a faith based initiative, or as BL put it: "As of the moment, a priori argument will have to continue to bear much of the weigh" "in determining how much more of an investment, and in what form. should be made in this field (4)." They go on to say that there is little "conclusive evidence" about the cost effectiveness of online courses, in fact little good evidence at all. They also observe that much of this is driven by a desire for cost reduction: "achieving the same outcomes at half the cost per student should be seen as a great victory (11)." My worry is that as the outcomes are very hard to measure, as BL show, the focus will entirely shift to reducing cost. Add to this the strong institutional pressure to inflate the "success" of these online methods given the substantial investment being made by "self-interested advocates of online learning (11)" and I see trouble ahead for the reality based community. Of course academics in regard to self interest are not pure as the driven snow either, but I am pretty sure that the resources behind the drive to MOOC and IT education dwarf those of the academy. At any rate, this study is short and is worth a peek for it demonstrates the power of a profitable idea and the gullibility of our academic leaders. The point seems to be to join the stampede, evidence be damned.

1 comment:

  1. There's rarely evidence involved when a new technology or technique comes along, so while I appreciate the observation, it's a moot point. But yeah MOOCs are driven by corporate forces rather than the quality of education.