The Promise of MOOCs

I was talking to an old friend this week about innovative, progressive school designs for high-achieving students with significant parent involvement. We agreed that it’s pretty easy to design something effective for a population that’s going to succeed no matter what.

Along those lines, I read an interesting article about MOOCs that makes the argument that, pedagogically, the typical MOOC design philosophy is unlikely to be effective for most students, with heavy reliance on lecture, multiple choice questions, and superficial discussion boards. The only audience this approach is likely to succeed with, the article points out, is participants who are already very good at learning (high metacognition and excellent use of learning strategies) and who are highly motivated in the subject area.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. By making courses massive, open, and online, it’s possible to attract a fair number of participants with the self-discipline and metacognitive tools to succeed.

Nowhere do MOOCs promise innovation or new instructional models, or even learning. They promise access to ideas and thinkers.


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