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The Primary Educational Value of MOOCs

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The Evolution and Evaluation of Massive Open Online Courses

Part of the book series: The Cultural and Social Foundations of Education ((CSFE))

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The New York Times declared 2012 ‘The Year of the MOOC’; 2013 was the year of the rebound – when criticisms mounted and the MOOC hype balloon burst. Critics claimed that MOOCs were worthless both in narrowly educational terms and as credentials for the job market. This chapter examines four educational criticisms of MOOCs: that (1) MOOCs have low completion rates, (2) MOOCs cannot replace essential teaching functions, (3) MOOCs are isolating while good learning situations are social and (4) at their best, MOOCs merely reproduce the widely rejected top-down methods of conventional college courses. Selected examples of cutting-edge MOOCs are then examined to show how, and why, these early critiques can no longer in general be sustained.

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    See Arum, R. and Josipa Roksa (2011). Arum and Roksa’s research found that 45 % of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first 2 years of college, according to the study. After 4 years, 36 % showed no significant gains in these so-called ‘higher order’ thinking skills.

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    ‘The group scores increased, on average, in the Basic category from 460 to 604, and from 433 to 506 in the Algebra category. Both of these results were found to be statistically significant using a paired t-test (with each p value less than 0.0001), and perhaps more importantly, all but one of the students were able to improve their placement scores sufficiently to allow them to enter college-level math and science courses.’

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    President James A. Garfield, a student of Hopkins at Williams College, is said to have defined an ideal college as ‘Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other’. University historian Frederick Rudolph has stated: ‘no one can properly address himself to the question of higher education in the United States without paying homage in some way to the aphorism of the log and Mark Hopkins’.

  11. 11.

    Davidson, personal twitter communication, March 29, 2016: @CathyNDavidson ‘18 k at the time and now up to an 25 k @ljwaks’

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    Davidson lays out her plan for this course and its rationale in an interview with Jonathan Haber (2013).

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Waks, L. (2016). The Primary Educational Value of MOOCs. In: The Evolution and Evaluation of Massive Open Online Courses. The Cultural and Social Foundations of Education. Palgrave Pivot, New York.

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Pivot, New York

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-137-48594-6

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-349-85204-8

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