Wednesday, February 20, 2013

higher ed indeed

The online revolution is hitting a few bumps.

Dick McKenzie walks away from his micro economics MOOC in mid mooc, citing the abysmal performance of a large majority of the 37,000 students.

The NYT even managed to produce an anti online class editorial.  They claim that online students generally do worse than brick and mortar students, especially in community college settings.

I don't mean to suggest that traditional higher ed is the bizzle though. Consider the case of Sharon Sweet, an associate professor of mathematics, who is about to be fired from her job in Florida for pressuring students to vote for Obama (and a straight Democratic ticket).

If this is truly found to be a generally fireable offense, I believe that there will be an incredible number of new job openings in higher ed in the coming years.

This semester, I've been working on "flipping" one of my classes. Before each class, the students are assigned videos to watch or a reading assignment to complete and they take an online quiz over the material. The last question on the quiz solicits their feedback about what is causing them problems.

Then in class, we try to deal with the problems, work some examples, and fine tune their understanding. I still probably lecture more than I should, but it's a start and the students seem to be either enjoying or at least be OK with the format, though I'll have to wait for course evaluations to see what they really think about it.


Jack P. said...

"Online ed" is too broad, we need to be more specific.

At one end you have "document dumps": create a webpage, dump documents, let students go at it. No surprise it fails.

At the other end you have virtual classrooms with live interaction. You need students to be available at the same time, so you lose some flexibility, but you reap benefits of having a real classroom experience.

MOOCs are low-cost, low-quality, hardly better than document dumps. But virtual classrooms are a promising alternative (though limiting number of students).

August said...

I doubt it is the venue that is the problem; what it is is what it continues to be- before the great egalitarian push very few people went to college, and college was hard.
If, suddenly, you've got 37,000 students rather than 37, well the stupid will be far more noticeable than the one or two students you focus on in the classroom to get through the semester.
It is now basically a scam. Sit a bunch of people down, talk at them, take their money. They put up with it on the assumption that they will get better jobs. They won't get better jobs and we don't have decent research in this country because the people who could actually do it are crowded out.

Anonymous said...

Angus - are you going to write about your experience with flipping the class? Would be useful to the rest of us!

Gerardo said...

My understanding is that the course format you are discussing does not get rave reviews, at least not initially. In other words, I am guessing you will see some flipping, indeed.

Angus said...

So far, so good. But we will see. I am going to try it this summer in a bigger class.

Florarie online said...

Well, it's not that online education is in itself a less valuable form of education, but perhaps there is a sort of adverse selection here. The most interested students tend to go to classic establishments.

Jim Oliver said...

My one experience with online education is that the class was much harder and where the teach might give a good kid who did poorly on a test a break the computer was ridged.