SXSWorld November 2013


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MOOC Options and Audiences Grow, Future Influence Still Uncertain by Lissette Corsa 24 SXSWORLD / NOVEMBER 2013 DEBBIE FINLEY J W WA LT H A L L M OOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are an ambitious strand of online learning. Usually free, not for credit and available to anyone, anywhere with Internet access, MOOCs inhabit the continuously shifting landscape of technology, and just a year after they first burst into public eye, their effects on students, educators and traditional institutions have yet to be fully grasped. Sean Michael Morris, Managing Editor of Hybrid Pedagogy, a journal that focuses on teaching and technology, explains that MOOCs still have many hurdles to overcome, most having to do with engagement, interactivity, feedback and grading. "MOOCs have kind of been a clumsy first step," he says. An interview style MOOC keynote was presented at SXSWedu 2013 led by Laura Pappano of The New York Times; Morris also believes that the president of EdEx, Anant Agarwal; and Andrew Ng of Coursera. vast majority of MOOCs are through the University of Rochester. Andrew Ng, the co-founding too streamlined to be considered Stanford University computer science professor who began the comgroundbreaking, and additionally, they don't succeed as profit models pany as a commercial venture in April 2012, claims that Coursera is for institutions seeking a broader, paying audience. growing faster than Facebook. "They haven't innovated except by calling attention to the potenMeanwhile, EdX is a nonprofit joint venture created by Harvard and tial for global-scale learning," Morris asserts, but he adds, "[MOOCs] M.I.T. that offers dozens of courses on subjects as diverse as physics, offer a glimpse at new learning styles, and they open up questions computer science, engineering, literature, ethics, law, medicine and about credentialing our learning, and the disconnected relationship economics. Twenty-nine universities have signed on, including prestibetween technological innovation and pedagogy." gious state and private universities in the U.S., as well as the University Massive learning, he argues, will help determine what is wrong of Toronto and the University of Kyoto. with education and offer solutions. In fact, several programs at distinUdacity is also a commercial startup started in January 2012 with guished universities such as Princeton, UC Berkeley, M.I.T., Harvard a strong emphasis on science, math and computer science. Though and Johns Hopkins more limited in its scope of course offerings, Udacity is flexible about University are already how it presents materials and how users decide to approach them. embarking on this venCourses are entirely self-paced, with no specific weekly pattern of lecture. Their MOOCs are tures and assignments. filtered through a handful Founded a few years before MOOCs started popping up everyof educational technology where, Instructure offers K–12 courses and is used by more than 400 entities that are as diverse universities, colleges and school districts. Its Canvas Network, a new as the courses the instituopen-source management system, offers an experimental MOOC in tions offer. conjunction with AMC and University of California-Irvine that leverBoasting nearly five ages the popular television series The Walking Dead to push course million users, Coursera content. By experimenting with contemporary, almost real-time subpartners with 88 prestiject matter, Brian Whitmer, co-founder and Chief Learning Officer at gious academic institutions Instructure, hopes to answer some key questions. "Will that improve to offer 453 courses that outcomes? Will it increase engagement? Will it help more people range from "General learn?" he wonders. "Canvas Network is about asking these quesChemistry" to a course Andrew Ng tions and then sharing the answers with the community so we can all called "The Music of the of Coursera improve together." Beatles," which is offered

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