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Online Courses--another industry disrupted by the internet!


netnet
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Here is another industry that the internet is disrupting--higher education.

 

I'm a huge fan of MOOC's (massive open online course). see this thread for example:http://www.cornerofberkshireandfairfax.ca/forum/general-discussion/model-thinking-course/

 

I don't know how this will end, as in how do you make money when it is free, but I think that low tier residential liberal arts colleges and the for profit sector are quite vulnerable.  Why go to DeVry or Nowhere.edu when you do quite well with Coursera?

 

Clayton Christensen anyone?

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Harvard already does this sort of.  They have their regular extension courses, plus in the online space they started edX with MIT.  It's free for now.  A bunch of other top tier universities have joined.  UC Berkeley, Ecole Polytechnique, McGill etc., but none of them would want to "cheapen" their core programs.  They are playing a very different game than the low tier colleges.

 

One very interesting factoid, in conversations with a MOOC instructor, I learned that the best scores were not from the "residential" students, i.e. the students at the school giving the course, but the wider audience.  Now ordinary stats would predict that, give the enormity of the sample size, but nevertheless interesting.  (To me that indicate the monetization model: here is a student who can do a circuit class or code better than -fill in the blank--how much is that worth to a hiring manager?)

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Before everyone gets too excited about online courses...  Obviously, the Courseras and EdXs of the world have better professors, content, tools and processes for online learning than what existed in Wash. state community colleges (2004-2009).  That's a big difference.  But still the first study to look at this, as far as I know.  Having taken an online course back in 2004 or 2005, I could see a lot of problems with the class and imagine that Coursera et al. have lots of nifty bells and whistles that Blackboard did not have back in 2004.

 

http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/adaptability-to-online-learning.pdf

 

Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas

By: Di Xu & Shanna Smith Jaggars

Abstract

 

Using a dataset containing nearly 500,000 courses taken by over 40,000 community and technical college students in Washington State, this study examines how well students adapt to the online environment in terms of their ability to persist and earn strong grades in online courses relative to their ability to do so in face-to-face courses. While all types of students in the study suffered decrements in performance in online courses, some struggled more than others to adapt: males, younger students, Black students, and students with lower grade point averages. In particular, students struggled in subject areas such as English and social science, which was due in part to negative peer effects in these online courses.

 

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Harvard already does this sort of.  They have their regular extension courses, plus in the online space they started edX with MIT.  It's free for now.  A bunch of other top tier universities have joined.  UC Berkeley, Ecole Polytechnique, McGill etc., but none of them would want to "cheapen" their core programs.  They are playing a very different game than the low tier colleges.

 

One very interesting factoid, in conversations with a MOOC instructor, I learned that the best scores were not from the "residential" students, i.e. the students at the school giving the course, but the wider audience.  Now ordinary stats would predict that, give the enormity of the sample size, but nevertheless interesting.  (To me that indicate the monetization model: here is a student who can do a circuit class or code better than -fill in the blank--how much is that worth to a hiring manager?)

 

I had a different experience; my remote students did much poorer than the on-campus students. But this was a graduate semiconductor course, so maybe the topic and student population made a difference. I have done this about ten times. The first time was in 1986. Yes before the internet. We had several industrial sites and our regional campuses that we sent a microwave TV signal to. They also had phone connections so that they could interrupt me with questions, which they rarely did.

 

Edit: I always assumed the remote students did poorer because most of them had full time jobs and families in additional to taking a difficult graduate course.

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Harvard already does this sort of.  They have their regular extension courses, plus in the online space they started edX with MIT.  It's free for now.  A bunch of other top tier universities have joined.  UC Berkeley, Ecole Polytechnique, McGill etc., but none of them would want to "cheapen" their core programs.  They are playing a very different game than the low tier colleges.

 

One very interesting factoid, in conversations with a MOOC instructor, I learned that the best scores were not from the "residential" students, i.e. the students at the school giving the course, but the wider audience.   Now ordinary stats would predict that, give the enormity of the sample size, but nevertheless interesting.  (To me that indicate the monetization model: here is a student who can do a circuit class or code better than -fill in the blank--how much is that worth to a hiring manager?)

 

I'm thinking since that "audience" actively sought out the class, they might be more inclined to pay attention and do well since they were already interested. Whereas if I was taking a class just because of a requirement, I don't think I will do well.  (True story for me since I took a few online class at the California State University level. I did ok...a few B's but I never felt like I actually learned anything... The classes were art history/lit/Eng I believe.  We used Blackboard software.)

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Roger,  I read the Columbia paper.  it's not all that convincing nor is it necessarily relevant. Three points:

  • Japanese transistor radios were pretty crappy in the late fifties and early sixties too, but we know how that ended. 
  • Secondly, Washington State Community Colleges vs MIT???  I suspect that Community Colleges (CC's) will use the available curriculum to combine with face to face.  A high school used Harvard's intro CS course.
  • Just because the grades are worse does not mean anything.  It was free!
     

 

It won't be the CC's that are hurt by this anyway.  It's the for profits and the bottom tier residential that will be the first to crack. (80 to 90% probability on that I would guess.)  I do wonder if the middle tier residential colleges, whether state and private will suffer.

.

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I have a concern of this concept of having one great teacher whose lectures are on line and everyone in the world goes to for a particular course. I think it would lead to stagnation.

 

I think on-line material is a great complement to have for a standard university course and something I utilize. It is also great for someone who cannot go to a university. But I don’t envision it as a replacement for brick-and-mortar universities. It is a poor substitute.

 

I have been teaching semiconductor devices and electromagnetic fields for 25 years. I have gotten pretty good at it. I have won the outstanding undergraduate teaching award at my university of 40,000 students. I find that I am still getting better every semester. I still am finding new ways of presenting material, which I believe is better than what is out there. I am still learning every semester I teach a subject, which I wouldn’t have if I was relying for on-line lectures for my students. I believe my students are benefitting.

 

Even with a class size of about 60 students, I see a definite difference in my students from semester-to-semester. So every semester I do some things differently to accommodate, which would not happen with a stagnant on-line presentation.

 

I see these massive on-line courses as just another form of textbook. There is a real problem with textbooks. Every year there are new books published for teaching semiconductor devices and electromagnetic fields at the college level. But they are essentially all the same. They use the same blueprint, repeat the same errors, repeat the same general presentation, etc. There is no reason to publish these new books other than push the other books out and make students buy new books. This is also the same principle behind coming out with new editions where it is often difficult to find the differences between editions. You would think they would change all the homework problems after each chapter in a new edition, but sometimes this doesn’t even happen.

 

If I were ever to write a semiconductor device text, or an electromagnetic fields text, it would look very different than the texts out there. This is all-based on my cumulative experience from teaching the same subjects for 25 years, which again I would not have if students were going to on-line lectures instead.

 

Again I think having lectures on line is great idea, but not as a replacement or sole means of learning. Attention spans are only on the order of 5-10 minutes, especially viewing materials on line other than passive entertainment. So on-line materials need to be on the order of a youtube video in length. They can also augment live class experience by being more than just lectures--demonstrations, animations, short discussions of particular topics, etc.

 

Here is an example of what I mean for undergraduate electromagnetics,

 

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5ZsENSXOVzI0zHt4i2bZFw?feature=mhee

 

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boilermaker75, great post!

 

I learn well by reading, it's probably my preferred way to learn.  But that said being able to talk to someone about a question and have it answered and explained in person is priceless.

 

I can't imagine that good teachers, who love the material and are experts on the material will ever go away.  The lazy ones who are reading from the book might be upgrading their classes by going online.

 

I also found in class some of the most interesting lectures or infomation was when the professor would get slightly sidetracked and dive into something they were passionate about related to the topic.  The material would never appear on any test, but the knowledge was certainly valuable.

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netnet - yes, I agree and pointed that out in my post.  I would love to see some early study of edX, Udacity, Straighterline and the like.  I think right now they are more self selective and so that skews the results.  If California goes through with the proposed legislation in the state senate to require UC/CSU system to use MOOCs, we'd have a better answer.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Some interesting data on completion rates of MOOCs

 

http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html

 

I'm on my 3rd and I'm confident that I'll finish this one since it has my attention and I find it really interesting (Dan Ariely's A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior).  It has real life, relatable examples and he's engaging.

 

I've given up twice on Model Thinking since it just doesn't live up to what I had thought it was.  I just see a bunch of useless data that neatly fits into a model that they create around it.  The problem is more my own since I relate models to Munger rather than University math course. 

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Some interesting data on completion rates of MOOCs

 

http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html

 

I'm on my 3rd and I'm confident that I'll finish this one since it has my attention and I find it really interesting (Dan Ariely's A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior).  It has real life, relatable examples and he's engaging.

 

I've given up twice on Model Thinking since it just doesn't live up to what I had thought it was.  I just see a bunch of useless data that neatly fits into a model that they create around it.  The problem is more my own since I relate models to Munger rather than University math course.

 

Augustabound, I assume you have a traditional college education? Just curious because these MOOC's are being touted as the salvation of America's crappy education system, and from everything I've read our undereducated don't have the motivation or discipline to complete these courses without some kind of institutional support. Shows great personal dedication to want to improve ones' self.

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I think a problem with university education is that many Professors, particularly the research-oriented ones, aren't there to teach but rather to research. They don't particularly like teaching and aren't very engaged, or put in a lot of effort to help the students. With those courses, you're probably better off taking an online course.

 

On the other hand, the few Professors that enjoy teaching and make an effort to make the material interesting/understandable make a huge difference.

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Augustabound, I assume you have a traditional college education? Just curious because these MOOC's are being touted as the salvation of America's crappy education system, and from everything I've read our undereducated don't have the motivation or discipline to complete these courses without some kind of institutional support. Shows great personal dedication to want to improve ones' self.

 

Yes, Architecture.

 

The online courses are nothing more than a general interest for me. 

 

Of course there's always this, http://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/mit-challenge/

He tries to learn MIT's 4 year computer science program in 12 months. 

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Some interesting data on completion rates of MOOCs

 

http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html

 

I'm on my 3rd and I'm confident that I'll finish this one since it has my attention and I find it really interesting (Dan Ariely's A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior).  It has real life, relatable examples and he's engaging.

 

I've given up twice on Model Thinking since it just doesn't live up to what I had thought it was.  I just see a bunch of useless data that neatly fits into a model that they create around it.  The problem is more my own since I relate models to Munger rather than University math course.

 

Augustabound, I assume you have a traditional college education? Just curious because these MOOC's are being touted as the salvation of America's crappy education system, and from everything I've read our undereducated don't have the motivation or discipline to complete these courses without some kind of institutional support. Shows great personal dedication to want to improve ones' self.

 

I teach in a top-ten engineering school at a land-grant university. Although we have a wide spectrum in the population of our undergraduate engineering students, they were all near the top of their high-school classes. So you would expect this population to consist of motivated and disciplined individuals compared to the average college student. For about half of them, they still need a forced discipline and motivation. I have a policy where class attendance results in extra credit opportunities. This results in a class attendance of about 90%. If I did not do this, the attendance would be around 50% by the middle of the semester. I doubt those not showing up for class would have the discipline to watch these MOOC's. 

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