A View of the Future: From MOOC to MOOR

Graphic From: http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/experience.htm#ixzz2X

Four kinds of knowledge graphic source.

The MOOC will soon die. Long live the MOOR: (Via MOOCtalk)

Since the beginning, I’ve felt that one of the biggest contributions of MOOC mania is a richer view into the ways that top teachers design and deliver their courses. Opening a course to feedback from students and suggestions from outside experts can help push courses to higher levels of quality. Even better results come when course developers take the time to publish detailed assessments of what has been learned from these large scale experiments, or when thoughtful teachers reflect on their own practice.

Reflections of a Stanford Math Professor

Recently, Keith Devlin, mathematics professor at Stanford has been posting his reflections based on two iterations of his Introduction to Mathematical Thinking course. His results look like those of many of the other MOOCs reported about in the press:

  • Total enrollment: 27,930
  • Number of students still active during final week of lectures: ca 4,000
  • Total submitting exam: 870
  • Number of students receiving a Statement of Accomplishment: 1,950
  • Number of students awarded a SoA with Distinction: 390

His reflection on his work provides deeper insight to those of us who haven’t had the experience of teaching a course on this scale think a little more deeply about the process. Framing his course as a “research project” he suggests that we really need to question all of our preconceptions about the nature of education. He says:

From the start, I took the viewpoint that, given the novelty of the MOOC platform, we need to examine the purpose, structure, and use of all the familiar educational elements: “lecture,” “quiz,” “assignment,” “discussion,” “grading,” “evaluation,” etc. All bets are off.

Rethinking everything we know about teaching and learning is tough — particularly for those of us who have spent half a century or more as participants in the educational system. Our existing schemata and frames of reference aren’t up to the task of easily understanding alternatives to these deeply embedded components of courses. Building those new frames of reference requires a more systematic reflection on our teaching — the kind of reflection we’re trying to encourage at William & Mary through participation in the E-Learning Community.

Separating Learning from Evaluation

In discussing his course, Devlin sees the separation of learning from evaluation as being central to understanding and benefitting from the lessons of the MOOCOSPHERE. Since a very small percentage of students seem to care about the summative evaluation — the certificate — the course can focus more specifically on finding ways to define and foster learning and to provide formative tools for learners.

One way of better using these new tools is to reframe them as resources, not courses:

Rather, those of us currently engaged in developing and offering MOOCs are, surely, creating resources that will be part of a vast smorgasbord from which people will pick and choose what they want or need at any particular time…. Given the way names get assigned and used, we may find we are stuck with the name MOOC (massive open online course), but a better term would be MOOR, for massive open online resource.

Thinking about MOOCs as resources, not as courses, will challenge the business models of Udacity, Coursera and even the not-for-profit Edx. (Not to mention those of us in the university world who depend on offering courses for our business model.) If the online educational community evolves in the way that Devlin suggests, the video resources that make up the core of most MOOCs will eventually gravitate to the open Web. Those that use student data to iterate and improve will continue to grow. Those that don’t are like to drop by the wayside.

About Gene Roche

Gene Roche is director of Academic Information Services with responsibility for assisting faculty in using technology effectively in their teaching, learning and research. He also has an academic appointment as Executive Professor in the School of Education where he teaches courses in educational technology planning, emerging technology, and adult education and works with with students on independent study, dissertations and comprehensive exams. Current projects include working with the SOE’s Executive EdD program, co-chairing William and Mary’s Survey Center, and serving as chair of the Electronic Campus of Virginia. Gene completed his AB degree at Hamilton College and his MS and EdD degrees at Syracuse University–all in the snow belt of upstate New York. Before coming to William and Mary, he was the Director of Career Services at Hamilton and taught in graduate programs in Adult Education at Syracuse University and Elmira College.


  1. Jason Chen says:

    Thanks for the post, Gene! Here’s a question that would be nice to discuss regarding MOOCs and/or MOORs. From my standpoint, it seems like this format of education would most benefit those who possess the “habits of mind” and self-regulation gained from many years of good instruction from outstanding K-12 teachers and tireless mentors and advocates to support learning. However, those who have not had the good fortune of having had access to this kind of formal education and human resources are much more likely to drop out or get very little out of this type of experience (there are many references to places like U. of Phoenix and ITT Tech having graduation rates in the single digits!!!). So here’s what I worry about: A good college education will increasingly become more of a luxury that only the wealthy, well-connected, highly-motivated will be able to get anything out of, whereas those who have a rockier path to a college education will continue to be left behind. There will be two “flavors” of higher education: The one in which many of us experienced (residential face-to-face liberal arts education), versus the online or hybrid MOOC version. The MOOC version will be of lesser quality, I fear, but will be sold as something in which the “best professors in the world” are just a click away. But there’s a difference between clicking on a Prof. Devlin and hearing him talk, versus actually getting something out of that experience, which requires having had the formal education and/or having the supports in place to prepare students to be able to get something out of it. The “rich” will get richer and the “poor” will get poorer.