Yesterday’s full day at the Society for Scholarly Publishing conference boasted some pretty impressive speakers and topics (I won’t even get into who is in the audience, but suffice it to say that my inner citation management nerd is freaking out).
The welcome plenary covered MOOCs – massive open online courses – which I’ve touched on before given the University of Michigan’s involvement with Coursera (the MOOC platform with the most users, most courses, and a standardized format, I learned yesterday). Speakers included Dan McFarland and Mimi Culter, representing Stanford University Libraries.
Given how much I’ve been hearing and reading about MOOCs, it was a little humbling to be reminded that the major platforms – Coursera, edX, and Udacity – only launched in 2011. We’re in the infancy of this potentially revolutionary disruption in education. That aside though, it seems to be a trial by fire. Professors engaged in MOOCs are encountering significant challenges, including:
- Finding, obtaining, and disseminating useful content while adhering to copyright restrictions
- The immense amount of time and resources necessary to even adapt an extant course to the MOOC platform (I won’t even touch on creating one from scratch)
- Credit for such efforts (would this count toward tenure, for example)
But there area also appealing opportunities. Having a class of 40,000 students – even with an incredible attrition rate – enables a staggering amount of data capture. McFarland recounted how he split his class into 2 large groups to do an educational experiment and simultaneously have a control group. Franny Lee, who presented on behalf of SIPX, stressed the value of analytics in the MOOC setting – noting that there is now the option to experiment with geographically variable pricing structures, and possibly even (as the data gets bigger) analyze predictive trends – such as what content is associated with student success, and is that association statistically significant?
Laura Leichum of Georgetown University Press made an interesting conjecture that it appeared that MOOCs were headed in the direction of becoming a little less massive and a little more open – which made me wonder whether they would even be MOOCs at that point. What is clear is that in this incipient phase, MOOCs have yet to establish a final, defined form – but major players such as Stanford, the University of Michigan, MIT, and others, are actively getting involved in shaping the course of these exciting endeavors – and until best practices develo, the motto seems to be, “Try it and see what happens”.
Keep an eye out for a summary of the conference’s last day and a reflection on the whole experience here next week!