Monday, May 06, 2013
MOOCs and Remediation
Wise and worldly readers, what do you think? Is this a reasonable short-term strategy to get us out of some bad habits, without abandoning students who actually need help?
The idea behind a MOOC is a flipped classroom where a student watches a class-length lecture (of highly variable and perhaps even dubious quality or relevance to a specific course) at home and comes to class prepared for a more participatory learning experience. The idea is similar to expecting students to read a good (as opposed to a boring or dubious) textbook before coming to class.
The idea you are talking about is more like JiT (Just in Time) support for problem solving while they are doing homework. That would use hundreds of short videos targeted at specific skills that need work. There is a lot of this out there, from Khan to skilled math professors.
This can be used in a synchronous class mode (where students spend more or less time keeping up) or combined with a mastery-style approach that allows students to move at their own pace. As with the original PLATO project that started in 1960, this part is usually done with adaptive computer-based programmed learning in a wired classroom.
As you note, the semester system runs headlong into a conflict here between its two main goals: quantifying the cost of the instruction (which correlates well with time) and quantifying what has been learned (which fails if the student can master three semesters of material in one semester).
Isn't the point of MOOCs to reduce the amount of support per student?
So wouldn't they be, by definition, the very worst model for remediation? After all, everyone has always been able to go to the library and check out a textbook (which is the MOOC model in a nutshell). And yet, remediation exists.
If you are poorly motivated, poorly prepared, or possess average ability but would rather be the subject of direct instruction, then, well, pay for it.
Just as the folks who are not endowed with beauty have to pay for plastic surgery.
Many years ago, before the age of widespread computer technology, teachers lamented the lack of sufficient "overhead projectors", and there were those who considered themselves technologically savvy for their ability to produce copious amounts of transparencies.
I remember a colleague saying that, the lecturer appeared savvy but the students did not learn. I also recall a students saying that, a class with a projector provided the perfect opportunity for a nap.
In the event that these at-risk do overcome the developmental classes, what happens to them at college level, where do they buy motivation?