Thursday, April 04, 2013

MOOC Provider Panel: Coursera, Academic Partnerships, Instructure, edX

 Summary of a panel with  Maria H. Andersen (Canvas by Instructure), Relly Brandman (Coursera), Rebecca Petersen (EdX), Barbara E. Truman (Academic Partnerships)

Question: How do you think the MOOC will evolve over the next two years

Maria: it’s a bit hard to say, we’re in an experimental phase, we’re mostly looking at uses at the graduate level where people already have experiences

Relly: I like Maria’s answer. It’s early days. First, we can look for innovations in pedagogy, because of the work with such diverse participants. How does participation in discussion forums influence learning? How does putting themselves into the place of the instructor influence learning? And even cultural aspects, eg., the notion of ‘what is a class?’ – many of these MOOCs have become learning communities. I think we’ll see innovations in the technology, eg., more social tools. There will be many more classes. 

Rebecca: We all say it’s early days. But it’s true. This time last year EdX wasn’t even an entity. But what’s really evolving is a broader conversation about online learning. Those of us who have worked in online learning for many years know it occupies a specific space, and note that what it’s doing is pushing the conversation about teaching and learning. The conversation now is wide open.

Barbara. I would agree with my co-panelists, we are in the early days. I hope we see an increase in the number of campuses figuring out their MOOC strategies, and that we’ll see engagement – maybe a movement from X to C, toward communities.

Question: How do you see the MOOC transforming learning in online and other delivery modes?

Relly: Trying to engage students in lots of active ways. We’re seeing in MOOCs not a lot more attention paid to pedagogy and teaching in STEM classes, bringing the benefits of online learning back to the the university and live classes.

Rebecca: the MOOC is pushing the conversation about pedagogy and learning. One of the experiments in EdX, taking the MOOC and offering it on campus. What we’re hearing in focus groups is the community, the interaction. We have conversations with faculty really not thinking about this. Now faculty are thinking about how we teach well for MOOCs and the very diverse audience, and bringing it back to their classrooms. There is a lot of energy thinking about he methods that are working online.

Barbara: it reminds me of the need for a flux capacitor in some of our MOOCs. ;) It brings us back to the discussion of how online learning began in the first place. It’s the same conversation. MOOCs are becoming a test-drive and an onramp to degree completion. Not only will we see an improvement in teaching and learning, but also a reduction in cost.

Maria: maybe one insight: now I think of SPOCs, small private online courses, how they made professors rethink things. Now MOOCs are focusing institutional questions.

Question: How do you see intellectual property and ownership issues evolving considering that some institutions are using each other's course content via MOOC providers—an uncommon practice in higher education.

Rebecca: from the EdX space, people have been remarkably open and flexible. Faculty are generating their own courses, but we have San Jose State using our course, etc. Our faculty are habving the opportunity to see how their material is being used and how it appears to different kinds of students. There are different cultures – MIT has a very open culture, but as we work across partnerships, there are different cultures, different levels of openness.

Barbara: many of the IP discussions are going to be the decision of the institution. We will br promoting OER and CC, these will be campus decisions. But where it gets interesting is when we get more and more student generated content.

Maria: how does the 2002 TEACH act apply to MOOCs? Doe sit still apply? And also, who owns student generated content? How can it be used – can it be used for research?

Relly: Things are still evolving. At Coursera IP does not belong with us; we provide the platform and our partners provide the content.

Question: In your courses, how can you ensure that a students' work is their own? Is there a way to structure courses to address this concern?

Barbara: every type of course is going to have the vulnerability of not knowing work is performed by that students or learner, but just as in online learning there’s a way to solicit information to essentially create a profile of the student. But when we don’t have this data it’s more difficult. We want to make the academic rules made clear before and up front in the course, this is especially important for student generate content.

Maria: this becomes an issue only when we are giving credit. When they’re just vehicles for learning, as most of them are not, it’s not that big a deal. We hope it will mostly be like that. It’s a delight now, we don’t have any ‘hostages’ to the course.

Relly: it really becomes an issue when people start to use their MOOCs in context with other things. We started a pilot called ‘signature track’, where we give a certificate where they verify their identity as they go through the course; they have their webcam photo and keystrokes identified. They get a certificate and a URL they can share.

Rebecca: we’re experimenting with similar things, in one project we have a partnership with Pearson for proctored exams. But it goes back to the motivations why students are taking these courses – we have people who are learners, not students.

Question: Matriculated students enjoy full support from their institution's library; how can the MOOC provide similar support to the many thousands of students enrolled in the MOOC, the majority of which are not enrolled at the institution that is offering the course.

Maria: You must have been monitoring my Twitter stream. I’ve been really frustrated, I have no access to institutional libraries any more. There’s a real irony to an institutional system that teaches students to access the library and then kicks them out with no more access to it. There’s a role for these libraries. But I don’t see a way for them to do it for free.

Relly: in an idea world we make everything open source. We’ve seen a few classes that try to work with publishers, to provide part of a resource for free, and an opportunity to buy the full item.

Matriculated students enjoy full support from their institution's library; how can the MOOC provide similar support to the many thousands of students enrolled in the MOOC, the majority of which are not enrolled at the institution that is offering the course.

Relly: like Coursera, we have arrangements with folks, and we try to find out what we can offer for free access. Within our consortia, we work with librarians to see what can be offered across the consortium.

(UCF Viewing Room (MOOCer Wannabes): Many of our MOOC students are outside the US and have trouble ordering our textbooks.)

Barbara: I’m spoiled rotten – not having access to libraries and librarians is like not having access to the internet. Perhaps this is a point where we can get libraries involved with the MOOCs and get our digital literates really rockin’.

Question: Do you think the learning that takes place in a MOOC is on par with a face-to-face based course?

Relly: I think this is an apples and oranges comparison. We have to ask, why is the student taking the course. Online learning and live learning have their strengths. Online learning si good for mastery learning, helps people with say autism. And live learning has strengths as well.

Rebecca: this is a question that’s always asked of online learning. I’m waiting for the day we ask whether face-to-face learning is as good as the MOOC. Keep an open mind of just how learning takes places across a variety of settings.

Barbara: I’ve been engaged in creating five different MOOCs, and it has been such a delight to watch faculty pouring their heart into designing them. But I have in mind a phrase I heard: “The world gets online learning.”

Maria: these are apples and oranges. In a MOOC, it’s for the world, for people who are learning for learning’s sake. In an institutional course, even online courses, it’s for a certificate. It’s like comparing a book club to a literature course.

Question: Some critics suggest that the MOOC is a "retreat" to the old transmission course model.  How do your course designs address this possible criticism?

Rebecca: one of our signature pieces is learning sequences, very short sessions interspersed with problem sets, virtual labs, to get students immediate feedback. We’ve learned from research that students are looking for just-in-time feedback. So we’ve been doing things like green checkmarks, etc. Our students are looking for a high level of interactivity. So are our faculty. They aren’t looking to be just transmitters of information. So we’re looking at how to engage folks beyond just watching the lecture. I hate it when we all get categorized into just one course type.

Barbara: In some cases they probably are, but hopefully they won’t be. The question is how we can incorporate learner choice. The opportunity to offer a variety of different pathways for learners. The use of social media is so exciting, it will give us the ability to use social constructivism.

Maria: the key here lies not in the word MOOC but in how the learning design is done. It revolves around how we look at the old transmission model. Traditional learning was done by showing, the lecture model really is recent.

Relly: I think of the old traqnsmission model with the big lecture hall and the professor speaking and the students passively taking notes. The MOOCs are more interactive, with short videos, with activities and quizzes, lots of interactions on the discussion forums, outside in real life meeting with study groups.

Question: Some providers feel that peer review of student work is a sufficient replacement for feedback from an expert like a faculty member or a TA.  Would you agree?

Barbara: we know from publishing from our faculty how important peer review is for tenure track. But in the MOOC here really volume is in our favour. It goes beyond whether we can just get expert feedback. It’s about getting diverse voices.

Maria: I think that peer review demands that students really be familiar with certain topics. Eg. A grasp of grammar. Perhaps a cohort of experts, of people who have already shown they know the material. Universities did this with TAs. But TAs get paid. But we need to ask: are we doing peer review so students can learn, or for formal assessment. The prior is OK, the latter is questionable.

Andrea Nixon @ Carleton College: Automated grading of essays via edX

Relly. The short answer is yes. The first response is, how can you grade when there’s 10s of thousands of students? It gives them the opportunity not only to write an assignment but also read an assignment contributed by another student. We found that most instructors hadn’t done peer assessment before, they needed to be more attentive to things like writing a rubric. People are starting to look at this. But the answer is yes, peer review in MOOCs is working quite well.

Rebecca: one of the tricky things is the context, what purpose is it serving? It can be very misused and very confusing to the student. It becomes about helping the students understand what it is to do peer review. This is especially important in a cross-cultural setting. A careful framework must be developed. We’re doing some really quiet pilots to figure out how to balance the efficiency and the pedagogy behind that.

Question: Do you think that the current learning technology tools are sufficient to support MOOCs?

Maria: I don’t think learning technologies will ever be finished, so how can you ever say they are sufficient
(Stephen Downes: "Space technology will never be finished, so how can you ever say a certain space technology will be sufficient to get to the moon?")
Relly: I would say yes. I often bring up the example of the lecture videos, where there is a knee-jerk reaction that we want lecture videos that are really professional. But students want them to seem more real, to see the professor’s office, etc.

Rebecca: this is a tricky question where the technology isn’t the driver of the pedagogy and the learning design, we want it to be reversed. Obviously it has been sufficient to start the MOOC movement. But it's ’bout making sure the innovations are being driven by the teaching and learning conversations.

Barbara: clearly the tools can get better, and they will, but I think of my experience with Gardner Campbell’s MOOSE, about doing things I didn’t think could be done with a community. It’s really starting a professional revolution. Looking for crowd-sharing around design of the tools.

Question: Do you have any inkling of a funding model for MOOCs? Does anybody?

Relly: what’s happening at Coursera, we are experimenting with a couple different ways of bringing in revenue. It can’t be for charging to take the class. One way is the certification, charging $50-$60 to verify their identity. We’re also starting with career services, putting companies together with students.

Rebecca: we’re experimenting with a lot of different models. Our effort is mostly toward rounding out our first courses. We’re trying to be sustainable, but also being clear about what it is we’re trying to sustain; our courses and materials will always be open to people. One thing –w e won’t call it licensing, but reuse – is one of the options we’ve been exploring.

(Kathy Fernandes @ Calif. State University: MOOCs don't bear the weight of supporting career centers, counseling centers, health/rec centers, writing center, and other cost centers. So are we going back to a model that financially is ONLY about the cost of the actual teaching and learning?)

Barbara: AP has a business model in that we’re working with institutions that have an online program. Hopefully as we attaract students into these programs we share in the revenue. But also we hope we are helping institutions fulfill their social contract with the communities.

Maria: enough money needs to be made to support all these platforms, so there will be experiments. Hopefully the cost of tuition will be controlled or even lowered, and the quality of education even rise as a result.