Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are here to stay and will only grow for the foreseeable future. They have now entered ‘phase two,’ in which universities actually offer them very cheaply for credit (see tags for this post). This makes the question all the more urgent of just what it is that we can only and/or best do face-to-face in the classroom. What is it beyond ‘flipping the classroom’ from lecture/instruction to discussion/interaction and emphasizing ‘situational factors’ that we can best do together as a small enough group? I suspect it has a lot to do with cultivating conversation and relationship skills, and actually building more than ‘just’ academic/intellectual relationships. Deliberately cultivating intellectual community in the classroom would be one way to strengthen learning communities more generally. The new Honors Salon is a step in that direction.
Scholar and musician Jose Antonio Bowen, makes a strong argument and offers lots of good practical suggestions on his blog and in his 2012 book, Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning.
In his latest post, MOOCs meet your match: the MBC, he points out the massive asymmetries between MOOCs and traditional classroom teaching, and argues that the development of Massively Better Classrooms (MBCs) are the best response to the growth of MOOCs. Here is his opening paragraph:
Educational psychologist, Marilla Svinicki has analyzed the potential learning in MOOCs in the National Teaching and Learning Forum (December 23, 2012 and reproduced in Tomorrow’s Professor Msg. #1229). She concludes (correctly in my view) that online learning is good at providing information but not (yet) quite as good at giving guided feedback. Compared side by side, this a cogent and reasonable comparison, but what Svinicki, and other MOOC critics miss, however, is that there are MASSIVE asymmetries here.