Article arguing against MOOC's

Hi everyone,

I came across this article today arguing against MOOC’s. I was just wondering if any of you had any thoughts on what is being said. The article can be found here:

If I have understood their “report” correctly, their argument against MOOC’s can be summarized as:

  1. Not everyone has access to technology
  2. Face-to-face education has better results
  3. MOOC’s promote elitism, where the “white elite” get face-to-face education, whereas the masses get online training.

This seems truly bizarre to me. Surely without MOOC’s there would be a greater divide between the “elite” that go to university, and the rest that have no other options for higher education? Or am I missing something. To be honest, this group that published the report seems to have a terribly skewed view of online learning, open access to education and MOOC’s. Am I being overly critical, or do others agree with my reaction to this article?


There are lots of articles like this, recently also This was posted in the PWYM community - a MOOC :slight_smile:

There are legitimate criticism about MOOCs not reaching the underserved market. My personal opinion is that this is caused by a mix of access to technology and disempowerment. I think both of those need to be addressed.

I also think MOOCs and other online learning are thrown into the same category. I’m not an expert on the theory, so I’ll only mention that I know xMOOCs and cMOOCs exist, someone else can point to places properly describing this.

My understanding of this - xMOOCs that are about delivering more of the same thing over the internet to more people at a lower cost. Courses are typically still run by a professor and you may here things like automated problem generation and scoring, big data, content from the best professors in the world.

cMOOCs are more about decentralizing the content and structure and encouraging more connections. You may hear things like peer-driven, connected learning, interest driven, self directed, project based, etc.

I’m not the fan of the idea of xMOOCs. I think the power of the internet and learning on the internet is that people can take charge of their own destiny and don’t need to wait for some important professor to start preaching.

Read this. How do you feel about an algorithm rating your skills and telling you what to learn next?

This is my 2c, take it as such

Hi @dirk,

I actually experienced something like this during my psychology post-grad. It was through a correspondence learning university in South Africa, and they replaced lecturer-based marking with a combination of peer-marking and a machine learning algorithm. How it worked was that five copies of each student’s work would be distributed to five other students taking that module. Each student would then end up with five papers to mark, and receive five marks for their own paper. A machine learning algorithm then would compare mark distributions from your marking and that you received with a normative probability distribution.

I ended up failing an assignment because one of the papers I marked was really useless, and I gave a low mark which ended up falling within an anomalous threshold within the algorithm, and I received marks with an “anomalous” degree of variation from the other students. Due to the two statistical anomalies, my final mark was generated by the algorithm and I failed the assignment. At that point I lost any faith I had in that particular institution.

I have had positive experiences, however, with automated marking algorithms. For example with MOOC’s I have participated in from Stanford and Udacity, where computers will run submitted computer programs, and if the expected results are produced, then you pass that assignment. This made a lot of sense for the specific courses (Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence). I cannot see, however, that something analogous would work at all in the social sciences and humanities.


The peer assesment sounds awesome, but how they calculated your score and the finality of the algorithm’s answer sounds terrible! Did you receive the peer assessment afterwards and did it help you reflect on your work?

I think that only applies to specific isolated computer programs. I like things like Crobots and other variants, but I see it more like a game.

Actually, to be honest, I don’t like grades at all. It always feels tangental to learning.

I am really intrigued by the work around better peer-review and peer-grading systems, but when they get deployed in high-stakes settings (e.g. grades that count for your degree and will affect your chances of getting a job) people start focusing on designing against misuse, rather than for generosity. Thanks for sharing your story.

Yes, I did receive the peer assessment afterwards. There were a few comments that were helpful, but also a lot of obvious misunderstanding by one of my fellow students which resulted in a very low score, whereas the others gave me a very high score (leading to a high variation). If there were an opportunity for two-way discussion, the misunderstanding could have been avoided, as well as the consequence for me.

I agree. However, it is a very convenient way of assessment for teachers and lecturers. However, I think that the fundamental problem with most marking systems is that they compare a learner’s responses to a set of questions representing a fraction of the knowledge domain being covered, against the responses of an individual teacher. Firstly, the rest of the knowledge domain is ignored. Secondly, this format does not suite all learners. Then finally, it assumes that the teacher’s single set of responses is the only correct response.

I am very excited about OpenBadges, as I think that interactive feedback and encouraged dialogue allows for a much more thorough and accurate assessment of the individual’s grasp of the knowledge domain.