What MOOCs Have and Haven’t Done for Education
When I began writing about MOOCs a couple of years ago, much of the furor revolved around the imminent demise of classroom education. That hasn’t happened. For example, they are a valid, complementary offering at institutions of higher education like Pennsylvania State University. For businesses such as SAP, MOOCs are a fast, fun way to help people gain the skills they need on the latest technology innovations including digital transformation, internet of things, mobile and cloud. At the same time, MOOCs are undoubtedly instigating tons of innovations that are forever changing how learners learn and teachers teach.
Penn State launched its first MOOC in 2013. Since then, Kathryn Jablokow, an associate professor there, said they’ve caused everyone to rethink teaching in the traditional classroom format.
“Residential instruction isn’t going to go away. But now you have people thinking about the use of technology because you’re working at a new scope and scale and integrating truly globally across 190 countries. Those kinds of things are starting to trickle down and influence the way instructors teach all of their courses in all the different formats, and it’s been tremendously positive.”
Consider the concept of self-grading. Relatively rare in classroom settings where teachers rule, self-assessment is a practical alternative in sessions with thousands of students. But this isn’t the only reason the next openSAP MOOC includes peer and self-assessment modules. Participants who sign up for the Build Your Own SAP Fiori App in the Cloud course, which begins March 25, will be challenged to submit a prototype SAP Fiori app, and in doing so, enjoy a richer educational experience. The idea is that by grading peer submissions as well as their own work, students learn more – about not only SAP Fiori technology but also what it takes to create a quality app on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform. Three lucky contest winners will win MacBook Air computers. Instructors will also spotlight on the course’s home page additional submissions that participants grade exceptional.
Jablokow thinks peer assessments in MOOCs are valuable.
“Assuming you have a good rubric, it encourages people to be reflective practitioners, and to think about the quality of work,” she said. “When you think about the quality of other people’s work you think about your own. It also teaches you how to give feedback to other people in a constructive and not a destructive way.”
All this is well and good, but how can instructors ensure the integrity of the grading experience? Before participants in SAP’s upcoming Fiori MOOC can conduct assessments on themselves or classmates, they’ll engage in a pre-evaluation training session. By practicing on submissions graded by experts, they’ll learn assessment standards to help ensure grading consistency and fairness. The peer assessment activities are a percentage of each participant’s total course grade, along with weekly assignments and the final test. Participants can also earn extra points if their self-assessment score aligns with how their peers graded them.
Another valid question is whathappens to the role of the instructor? Similar to all brilliant innovations, MOOCs empower instructors to focus on higher value pursuits such as the quality of the overall learning experience. “If I’m not worried about grading, I can spend that time looking at the trajectory of the students overall, what they’re saying about each other, if they’re going in the direction I was hoping they’d go, and maybe learning other things I didn’t anticipate,” said Jablokow.
MOOCs are now a bona fide educational option. They haven’t made classroom learning obsolete and probably never will. Yet they’re beginning to indelibly impact learning in ways no one could have anticipated.
Follow me @smgaler