Enroll your kids in my MOOC for kindergarteners.

There has to be a line, right? We should champion and study our innovations while at the same time drawing clear lines around the space where they’re useful and being honest about the space where they’re not. If Sannier thought there was anything MOOCs couldn’t do, any discipline or student for whom the MOOC modality would be any less than perfect, he kept it to himself. Kindergarten? Civics class? Science lab? We need to start drawing lines around the problem space for which “MOOC” (and “online education,” more generally) is the solution.

I’d like to point out also that MOOCs make the most sense if you accept the pedagogy of several hundred students being spoken at in a lecture hall. If that is the highest we aspire to pedagogically, then, yes, let’s take the people who speak at students best and have them speak at many more students, all at once. But does being spoken at in a large room ever rate as the best part of anybody’s higher education? There are many people, including Tom Sallee at UC Davis and Eric Mazur at Harvard who have innovated around the large lecture hall, creating environments for experimentation and peer instruction.

I can accept a decrease in the quality of the education we offer if we compensate in other areas like affordability and scale. But to hear Sannier (and other proponents of MOOCs) talk, there is no downside here, which sounds a lot more like a sales pitch than an appeal to reason.

4 thoughts on “Enroll your kids in my MOOC for kindergarteners.

  1. This reminds me of a colleague who says things like do we really want Montessori learning for nuclear reactors? There are some topics where students need a little more guidance. I agree – we need to be practical about the opportunities and constraints of technology.

  2. Great post. I suspect that the reason none of us cite our educational highlights as being those moments where we were addressed by experts en masse is because as students we need to be heard, not just to listen. Whether what I’m hearing is the learner’s specific confusion, or their beautiful insight, in order to be a creative process (which must be the basis of human knowledge because otherwise we’d never have begun), learning has to involve being heard and having that reflected back to you, perhaps in a more digested form.

    I can talk at a million people at once, but I can only have a dialog with a handful. If what Sanier/MOOC advocates is a high quality provocation, backed up by smaller group discussion, that’s one thing, but it can’t be the whole deal.

  3. I made a cryptic joke on twitter about Big Bird being the Kindergarten MOOC you’re looking for; maybe it’d benefit from more than 140char.

    It seems to me that MOOCs are basically two things combined – a broadcast medium for content, and some form of online assessment (whether automated or crowdsourced).

    The broadcast part seems to me like a slight revision on the older education “revolution” of video / TV. Which actually *was* a revolution, from what I hear of how primary education changed when Sesame Street came out.

  4. 100,000 kindergarteners enrolled in my MOOC (math content and assessment game) and counting.

    It works much better if teachers and parents are involved instead of passive, or worse, hostile.