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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 Latent Heat ( 558884 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @02:06PM (#43775135)
    OK, people are "addicted to MOOCs" much as people are "addicted" to TV or to the Internet.

    How does this help me teach people to be engineers?

  • Get the book? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by internerdj ( 1319281 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @02:11PM (#43775177)
    "'If you want to become an expert in the field,' he says, 'I think you need the book.'" My first assignment in my current PhD program was to come up with a list of errata from the textbook to submit back to the collegue of the instructor to fix for the next edition. It was one of the most informative assignments of my entire academic career.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @02:27PM (#43775279)

    While I'm not quite a hardcore MOOC user, I usually have three on the go as well as book learning. All of the courses I have taken have been entirely or mostly new to my existing knowledge. Given the time commitment and the nice-but-limited outcome of most MOOCs (an 'attaboy' certificate), it's a waste of time and effort to gravitate towards the comfortable.

    About half of my courses complement my IT career (programming, networks, tech history), half don't (ancient history, philosophy, rhetoric, music/songwriting). Anecdotally, those peers I have interacted with have come 'cold' to many subjects, too.

    It's been a most productive period of unemployment!

  • 99.97% dropout rate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @02:30PM (#43775315) Homepage

    So out of 3 million people signed up with Coursera, only 900 have completed 10 or more courses, comparable to roughly a year of full-time schooling. Only 100 have completed 20 or more. That's a 99.97% dropout rate after one year.

    This isn't going to replace other forms of education with stats like that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @02:40PM (#43775387)

    You are missing the point. Why would you want someone who hasn't mastered the calculus to study string theory? I have been taking Physics II through edX.org and it is wonderful. I have my degree in Physics and several years of grad school but I have been working as a restaurant manager for 25 years.What good would a course that is over my head be for me? I am thinking like a physicist for the first time in decades and I find it makes me a better all around person. I have no illusions of standing on the podium in Stockholm any time soon.

  • by Fosterocalypse ( 2650263 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @02:41PM (#43775401)
    to teach a niche or particular subject they find incredibly interesting and the university may not sign off on it. For example I took and Algorithms course, and a cryptography course. Both applicable to the CompSci field and degree programs but not really incorporated in the bulk of programs offered.
  • by Quirkz ( 1206400 ) <ross.quirkz@com> on Monday May 20, 2013 @03:18PM (#43775739) Homepage

    I agree 100%. Many of the classes I've taken have been light to moderate, a couple fairly rigorous, but none of them matched the demands of any of my undergraduate courses (admittedly at a tough private college). The rigorous ones might have come close to a couple of big-lecture entry-level classes I audited at a state university which weren't particularly demanding, but even there I think the total amount of education and challenge still goes to the traditional school.

    That said, it is still learning. Engaging, educational, entertaining, and satisfying. I do read nonfiction books on my own, but changing the pace with lectures and quizzes is refreshing. I'm getting a lot out of the experience. How it compares to a traditional college environment is mostly irrelevant for me now; in the future, if they're talking about accredited classes and full degrees in MOOCs, that may be a different issue.

  • by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @03:58PM (#43776059)

    Mod parent up.

    More than you may think – but it depends on the person.

    These is less at stake when you take a MOOC. The cost is free to low. Is a subject foreign or difficult? So what if it takes you 2 or 3 passes to nail it. Is the subject not as interesting as you though? Turns out you lack the prerequisite skills? Teaching style is a poor fit? Who cares – drop it. It’s not like a failed grades or student loans will haunt you.

    For myself it allows me to dip my toes into a subject at a low cost. Then I can go hog wild.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.