Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Grading the MOOC University

Maria Montero sent me a link to A. J. Jacobs' student-centered review of MOOCs, which appeared in the New York Times. Jacobs enrolled in 11 highly diverse MOOCs and finished 2 -- a typical browse/complete ratio.

Jacobs was also interviewed on NPR's Talk of the Nation (transcript and audio recording).

Jacobs "graded" MOOCs as follows:

The professors: B+
Convenience: A
Teacher-to-student interaction: D
Student-to-student interaction: B-
Assignments: B-
Overall experience: B

Jacobs' conclusion:

As these online universities gain traction, and start counting for actual college course credit, they’ll most likely have enormous real-world impact. They’ll help in getting jobs and creating business ideas. They might just live up to their hype. For millions of people around the globe with few resources, MOOCs may even be life-changing.

As for whether MOOCs will ever totally replace colleges made of brick, mortar and ivy, however, count me as a skeptic. A campus still has advantages for those lucky enough to afford the tuition — networking being one. (Even dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg made key social connections at Harvard.) And an online college will never crack Playboy’s venerable annual list of top party schools.