It’s a Gates funded project, but it jives with how I’ve been thinking about MOOCs lately:
Once they’re in, Portmont students will meet up for a one-week, one-credit intensive orientation where ideally they’ll bond with their classmates and the personal “success coaches” that are part of Portmont’s faculty, before heading back home to work on a largely online curriculum. They’ll return once every eight weeks to take part in group-project-based learning and presentations. The idea is to combine the best of online learning–self-pacing, convenience, and an analytics-powered dashboard that provides instant feedback to teacher and student–with some of the benefits of face-to-face education, while still keeping total costs low. Portmont will cost $5,240 per student, an amount entirely fundable with need-based Pell Grants, so that students can graduate debt free.
Once you get past the corporate culture (“success coaches”) and Valley buzzword ickiness (“analytics-powered dashboard”) and concentrate on the core structure of the experience, you realize this is how we live right now outside of education. We often work separately from colleagues at other institutions — learning from each other online, through email and twitter and blogs and hangouts. But that just makes time at conferences — the face-to-face time — more intense. And in turn, the intensity of a good conference renews the meaning of the online work and depth of the connection between us.
I don’t know what the ratio of campus to home time should be, and the slacker in me still thinks the kids need at least enough time to drop acid on campus and spend at least some time in a campus radio station quoting some Derrida pomposity about hauntology while drinking Old Mil pounders — but the idea of short intensive residential spurts combined with online is a big part of the future, no matter what the ratio is. It’s only a matter of time. And my money says you could do this with MOOCs – xMOOCs, cMOOCs, dsMOOCs. And that we’re already sort of doing it, it’s just not institutionalized…