MOOCSs are dead, long live the MOOCs!

“The critics are right that most people who start a MOOC don’t finish.” The introductory statement of the latest Coursera report on Moocs trends is clear: if you assess the value of a MOOC by the number of “finishers”, MOOcs are dead. Even more if you read that “MOOC enrollees predominantly are well-educated residents of developed countries”. What was thought to be a way to open up education to those who hadn’t a chance to go to college is in fact a hobby for graduate students.

Fortunately, the picture is lightly different. globally we are still talking of millions of students that have finished MOOCs. More importantly – and this is the major finding of this study – when you look at tangible career benefits, “career builders with low socioeconomic status and lower levels of education report tangible career benefits at about the same rate as or more than those with high status and lots of education”. MOOCs would therefore be the only massive instrument able to combat social inequity in education in a cost effective way.

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Let’s have a look now at a second piece of news published by the french daily Le Monde: les amphis bondés de l’Université d’Amiens (the jammed classrooms of the Amiens University (in the north of France)). What is said basically is that the students no longer fit into the University’s physical space. Too much is too much! These students are not any students. They are issued more than anywhere in France from low socioeconomic families. And the region has a need of new skilled workers that must be trained in the region. Are the MOOCs a solution to solve the physical space problem? They can be used to teach classes instead of packing up students in amphiteathers that will always be too small. As in a flipped classroom context, students would then meet in small groups and work on projects.

This hybrid model could be a first step towards greater social equity while reducing budgetary pressure on existing infrastructures. However, it requires a critical approach of the pedagogy that sustains the MOOCs: the RESET project lead by three spanish Universities (Universidad Carlos III, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Universidad de Valladolid) starts from the hypothesis that current MOOCs are a set back on major advances in education mainly because of their massive scale and direct instruction model that goes against particularization of teaching and use of active and collaborative pedagogies. This hypothesis is challenging as it drives us towards a brand new pedagogic model that should combine MOOCs effectiness in the massive delivery of knowledge and participatory learning schemes developed in small physical spaces that will enable the required degree of personalization.

The model of MOOCs Academy experienced in Israel by Yaakov Hecht goes in this direction: opening up small learning spaces where MOOCs learners can gather and learn together with the support of voluntary mentors.




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