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Comments on Globe article about Coursera

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By Rory McGreal July 18, 2012 - 8:25am

The Globe this morning published this article about Coursera a consortium of 11 universities offering onlne Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). Note that MOOCs were originally started in Canada by our own George Siemens and a former AU tutor, Stephen Downes. Note also that AU is a member of a consortium of 17 higher education institutions on 5 continents called the OER university that will be offering free courses online this September!

Here is a comment  by Linda Harasim, to which I replied below. Linda, as she notes, did teach the first totally online course in the world. She wrote:

A FACT THAT MAY BE OF INTEREST to Canadians and UofT: In 1986, I taught the first totally online course in the world. It was a full credit grad course, offered by OISE, the University of Toronto. Prof. Dorothy Smith and I taught the course entirely online, and pioneered online collaborative learning and of course, online university courses.

Online collaborative learning is a pedagogy that has now been used worldwide successfully for almost 30 years. University of Toronto should celebrate its own history-making, as it goes on to adopt the U of Standford mode.

btw, ironically, I was told that U of T would not embrace online education until Stanford did. That was in 1986. Then Stanford started offering online (video-based) courses and I was told that no, UofT couldn't do that because we couldn't compete with Stanford.

Interesting, 2012, U of Toronto is finally following its dream: following Stanford.

After 30 years of research and practice in the field of online education, I have concerns about the educational effectiveness of MOOCs, in the name of access. Perhaps. It is very early in the 'evolution' of MOOCs, and already many serious problems are being cited by educators who are highly committed to the cause of access but who are also committed to quality education.

Such massive forms of distance education, with tens of thousands of 'students' may be a great sound byte but is it education? Are students learning? How does anyone know?

I'd like to see a bit more thought go into the decision rather than jumping aboard a decision that sounds like the flavor of the month.


Score: 0

RORY replied:

10:12 AM on July 18, 2012

After 30 years of research and practice in education both online and in the classroom, I have concerns about traditional classroom teaching. Many serious problems are being cited by educators. Great lecture halls with 100s of students are often the norm. But are students learning? How does anyone know? We should start thinking seriously about the real quality of traditional classroom education where at the university level, the ONLY quality control is to put a PhD in the classroom, usually with NO teacher training and NO control over their teaching.


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