Two Surveys on MOOCs

MOOC Coffee

Two recent surveys offer some insight on the status of MOOCs in higher education. The first, conducted by Smart Brief, a content distributer for ASCD, asked the following question: Which statement best represents your views about online learning through massive online open courses in higher education?

  • Online learning through MOOCs may be a viable option for all students (53.91%)
  • Online learning through MOOCs is a good option for non-degree-seeking students only (21.74%)
  • Online learning through MOOCs is poised to disrupt the higher education model as a whole (16.52%)
  • Online learning through MOOCs is a passing fad (7.83%)

The answers suggest that the majority of educators are open to using MOOCs with their students. In a previous post, I have suggested another play; educational leaders should use MOOCs to engage teachers.

The second survey was one that was made by Coursera students called: MOOCs are not enough – How to use the full power of online education? Alert readers will notice that I repurposed their lead image. This survey has had more than 200 responses and has generated some ideas for improving online education. Three observations resonated with me.

  1. MOOCs offer a scalable method to learn anytime, anywhere and in very large and diverse groups.
  1. MOOCs need to invest in the trend toward personalizing education.
  1. Practical projects created during MOOCs are collaborative, peer reviewed, and often demonstrate deep and relevant learning.

New MOOC Model

The author sums up his recommendations with an informative graphic that illustrates how MOOCs should be more focused on student goals, move toward fully personalized learning, and remain free and flexible. The emphasis on free and flexible is not lost on me as a MOOC advocate for teacher professional development. Teachers are starving for high quality professional development. As a History-Social Studies teacher, I know that under the Common Core, all subject teachers need to be writing teachers. Unfortunately many History/Social Studies teachers have not had significant instruction and/or practice in historical writing. Worse, very few teacher professional development seminars focus on this topic. Further, the educational publishing market has compounded this problem by concentrating most Common Core curriculum development solely in the subjects of English and Math. Perhaps MOOCs could be used to train teachers interested in making their students college ready writers?

Sadly, I suspect most districts will wait until the new subject-matter assessments are created and then train teachers on how to help their students master the new standards. Kind of reminds me of this old New Yorker cartoon. I believe MOOCs could showcase inspirational teaching and make teacher PD uplifting. Anyone with me?




Our universities could help student writing and improve college readiness, if they stopped asking for personal essays as an admissions requirement and instead asked for graded academic writing – a research report, an English or history paper.

I paraphrase Robert Pondiscio’s call to arms on the East Coast centric Fordham Institute blog.  It is a piece I wish my students would read. Joanne Jacobs links it to an Atlantic article on oversharing to get into college. It makes me wish I had spent some time as an Ivy League admissions counselor, so I could get into the market for $14,000 four-day college-app cram camps. For the most part, I wish my students would write more than one draft of their college application essays. Most of my students do not understand the art of writing as an iterative process.  This year, I added a revision memo as a metacognitive reflection tool into my final research paper expectations. Unfortunately very few of my tenth grade students were willing to reflect on what improvements they need to incorporate into their academic writing. Would parents would demand an increased emphasis on academic writing in high school, if this were to become a de facto Ivy League admissions policy?

Social Studies teachers need to increase writing assignments under Common Core, yet many are afraid of increasing their workloads. Peer review can transfer the feedback loop from teachers to students. Peer review programs give students additional practice in developing the skills necessary to recognize effective thesis statements, use textual evidence, and refine arguments. Learning by evaluation protocols can systemically improve students’ self-assessment abilities and provide data for improving Social Studies writing instruction.  Teachers can increase the use of writing-from-sources tasks, which integrate reading and writing (DBQs) by using free technology (Edmodo) to display anchor papers and exemplars. Further, all teachers should train students how to evaluate academic writing within their discipline.  Students can learn how to increase their inter rater reliability and validate peer-review rubrics using Google Forms.