NY Times has serious doubts about the effectiveness of online courses. You have to be at a high level (intellectually) to succeed online, quite higher than to succeed in face-to-face courses. Read here.

asked 19 Feb '13, 23:38

Jose's gravatar image


This isn't a bad article, but its a shame that they lump the current brand of MOOCs in with online courses offered at community colleges. MOOCs are taught by world class professors working hard to make world class online courses. Online community college classes are taught by overstressed adjunct professors trying their best to scrape out a living in the lower tier of academia.


answered 20 Feb '13, 01:19

Ben%20Haley's gravatar image

Ben Haley

Did anyone check the original source to see if they controlled for the students taking the respective classes? It would be interesting to know how comparable the students taking the online and physical classes were. (in case it's not obvious, I suspect some adverse selection going on, with those choosing online classes perhaps being less capable/committed/motivated)

Nonetheless, I think the "MOOCs are best for the capable and self-motivated" concern is very real. IMHO enabling MOOCs to work well for the majority of students is a major hurdle on the road to MOOCs being broadly useful (and being most successful in the marketplace).

And buried in the article is this:

Interestingly, the center found that students in hybrid classes — those that blended online instruction with a face-to-face component — performed as well academically as those in traditional classes. But hybrid courses are rare, and teaching professors how to manage them is costly and time-consuming.

It will be interesting to see how the Udacity/SJSU pilot goes. I think that will shed some light on the concerns expressed in the NYT article.

Re: @Ben Haley's answer, has anyone here taken both the community college classes discussed in the article and a sample of the MOOCs we usually discuss here? It would be interesting to see an informed comparison.


answered 20 Feb '13, 10:17

rseiter's gravatar image

rseiter ♦

The "hybrid" method can use the advantages of both face-to-face and online courses: you get someone real to answer to questions, motivate, etc... (face-to-face); and you get freedom to schedule lessons (videos) at night, on weekends, to repeat videos visualization several times, etc. So perhaps the "new" inverted education model that is being fostered by many, and applied in several schools (I've read already quite a few news about it, but don't recall any link right now) where you see the video lessons and do the HW online at home, and then you come to the real school to get your questions answered, to meet with other students, to do your exams, etc... is the way to go. Nevertheless it is a flip in common (scholastic) education methodology, a model that is being applied for several centuries...
(20 Feb '13, 12:02) Jose Jose's gravatar image
My understanding is that both of the Coursera/Caltech MOOCs I am taking now are using the online materials to do something like this with their physical classes. https://www.coursera.org/course/cosmo http://www.astro.caltech.edu/~george/ay21/ay21.txt https://www.coursera.org/course/econ1scientists
(20 Feb '13, 12:33) rseiter ♦ rseiter's gravatar image
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