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More MOOCs in the News

Massive Open Online Classrooms (MOOCs) made headlines in the New York Times again. Harvard University’s own venture into MOOC-space, edX, is mentioned, along with the usual suspects, Coursesara and Udacity.

A couple highlights from the article:

  • The challenges inherit in widening a traditional classroom to a global audience are breathing new life into the art of teaching and learning. Professors are finding that they need to reshape and rethink their instructional approach when teaching tens of thousands of virtual students.
  • These challenges will be overcome with the help of the students themselves. For example, the crowd-sourcing of moderating discussion forums and of grading via peer-to-peer evaluation is becoming critical to running a MOOC.
  • Peer-to-peer evaluation of assignments, such as essays, is permitting the MOOC to go beyond computer science and engineering, which were suited to automated, computer grading. Humanities courses are starting to jump aboard.
  • There is, of course, still much to learn, especially about how well students learn in a MOOC. MOOC-space is young, wild, and untamed.
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Peer Review, Peer Grading

With all the talk of MOOCs (edX / Coursera), I’ve been very interested in finding more information on peer review. So I’ve been reading the studies that espouse the benefits of peer review in general.

Duke Chronicle: Peer grading experiment a success, professor says
Mostly older articles via google

And the pitfalls:
How accurate is peer grading?

A couple years ago I was put in charge of working with UCLA’s Calibrated Peer Review for Eric Mazur. He was really excited about it — I was less so. But my problem was I was looking at the application, not the concept. Just because an application is overdeveloped drivel doesn’t mean what they were trying to do isn’t awesome. I’m of the thinking they should have simplified it. That seems to be the case with just about everything I see. Applications shouldn’t be as complicated as they’re made. The problem is there are usually too many people involved in a project’s inception and everyone needs to put a piece of themselves into it. But I digress. edX will be great.

I don’t think Mazur used the CPR for more than 2 semesters. Probably because there was too much overhead and it wasn’t intuitive enough. But a poor implementation doesn’t mean a poor idea.

Or at least that’s my theory on this. I hadn’t seen any progress with online implementations of this, people haven’t been pushing this teaching technique yet and it’s disappointing (or telling).

Coursera is making a run at it now. That is encouraging. That means edX will probably follow suit with a similar implementation. And I’m planning a mild implementation with Quizmo.

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What edX isn’t

I’m not sure where this has come from, but most of the discussion about edX on the webs is discussing how it’s going to take over residential education. How you don’t need a college education anymore because edX is free.

Perhaps the misconception comes from the poorly titled nytimes article. The article gets things right, but the title is misleading.

#edx on twitter

edX is advertising itself as the biggest thing since white bread, but what are they actually saying about their service?

What is edX?

MITx and Harvardx courses will not be offered for credit at either university.

… such certificates would not be issued under the name of Harvard or MIT.

And that’s really the big deal, that’s supposedly the big step forward from opencourseware. But it doesn’t exist. So I guess the point is to market the edX name so its certificates can someday have perceived value, or maybe that policy will be changed; but for now, based on what they have released, people seem to be ill-informed.

In contrast, Coursera links the name of the providing university to the cert. But the cert is available only through Coursera and will be released upon user request similarly to the way a university will release records to an inquiring employer. Maybe edX will adopt the same methodology, only time will tell as edX is too immature to intelligently speculate over currently. There’s some mitx software that was probably not written with open source in mind and 3 guys in a dark room somewhere feverishly trying to produce something that doesn’t embarrass the Cambridge community before fall. I’m confident they’ll come out with something nice, the problem is Coursera has a head start, a larger staff, possibly less politicking (grass is greener), and they already have a very nice feel to their product.

edX presents a wonderful opportunity to find a solution for the quandary that has been plaguing the educational community for a while. i.e. how to best leverage the webs for education. Education online has been clumsy at best, and this is another attempt to capture what works best. That’s what I’m excited about, the research of the successes and failures of these online classes. And to get that research, maybe it’s best for people to have an overreaching idea of what edX is so more people are interested.. so on second thought, nevermind.

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