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Education The Internet

What Professors Can Learn From "Hard Core" MOOC Students 141

jyosim writes "Hundreds of people are spending 20 or 30 hours a week just taking free Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. They're not looking for credit, just the challenge of learning. This Chronicle of Higher Ed story looks at whether these MOOC addicts think they're learning as much as they would in a traditional college course. From the article: 'Consider Anna Nachesa, a 42-year-old single mother in a village near Amsterdam who logs on to MOOCs for several hours each night after dinner with her teenage kids. She has always found TV boring, she says, and for her, MOOCs replace reading books. She is a physicist by training, with a degree from Moscow State University, and she works as a software developer. "This stuff is actually addictive," she says. In some ways the lure is like Everest: Some want to climb it to see if they can. "The Dutch have the proverb 'If you never shoot, you already missed,'" she says.'"
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What Professors Can Learn From "Hard Core" MOOC Students

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  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @02:22PM (#43775243)

    I'm a software engineer, with some training in electrical engineering. I'm currently taking one on civil engineering. Trust me, its still a challenge- it requires mastery of physics concepts I haven't touched since high school, and some I was never really taught that I have to learn concurrently.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @03:04PM (#43775613)

    Last year I decided to go back to school 8 years after graduating High School, even though I had made it as a Software Developer in a fairly large company. I wanted to get a CS degree, mainly for added job security. I worked myself up from lowly tech support to the companies R&D group (where I still work,) and there was no way I was going to do that again. Trouble is that the degree program started with Calc I, no pre-calc unless I wanted to take it without it counting toward the degree credit wide, and I had only gotten up to mid level algebra before then. To top it off, my arithmetic was rusty when it came to unused subjects like negative and fractional exponents, I had no idea what they meant.

    Enter Khan Academy and Coursera, I fully completed all of the Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Trig and Pre-Calc sections they had in about 2 months and started college. It was really addictive to have a progress bar showing how close you are to completion. I've since taken and passed Calc I and II, and passed both with a 96 and a 91. Next Semester is Calc III and Discrete Math. The point I am trying to make is that they really are effective tools, and I wouldnt have made it this far without them.

  • my two cents (Score:5, Informative)

    by ashalynd ( 2928053 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @06:35PM (#43777135) Homepage

    As one of the persons mentioned in this article, I can't help saying that I felt uneasy being identified by my family status (as opposed to everyone else, who were described by their professional affiliation), after all I work in SW dev longer than that journalist has been writing his articles. Didn't expect the Chronicles of High Ed be that gender biased.

    In any case, for me main drives for getting involved with Coursera (and a couple of other MOOCs) were professional interests (for the stuff that was related to my work, eg computer science) and curiosity ( for the stuff that was not), combined with some free time I had available. (the bit about addiction was supposed to be a joke, but apparently that's the stuff journalists tend to pick. Lesson learned :) )

    I still wonder for how long the whole MOOC frenzy will continue in its current form. One of the concerns (which is often shared by the MOOC students themselves) is that the courses might become "watered down" so that more people will be able to pass them, but there will be less value in taking them. (If everyone wins in a lottery what's the point?). Another worry is monetization and which form it will eventually take (if things come to that point at all).

    In any case, there are now some courses well worth taking, even though they can't be seen as the equivalents of the "real" education, it's too experimental for that. What they can do (at least the good ones) is to provide a structured introduction to the field, which is quite valuable if you want to learn something new.

    On the other side, there might be some indirect (and hopefully, positive) effect of MOOCs which isn't measured by the percentage of those who successfully finished the course, but we might not be able to see it yet. From the fact that many of the people I know follow these courses now, I would assume that there is at least a demand, and it seems to grow. OTOH, it might be just a fashion which will pass after a while. So the best strategy seems to be using it while it lasts :)

Radioactive cats have 18 half-lives.