As readers of this blog know, Amy Collier and I have been making a year-long argument that MOOC community features, as currently designed, are often perceived by blended students as low-to-no-value substitutes for local interaction. That made this snippet of MOOC-runner Dan Ariely talking about his own class’s use of the MOOC rather interesting:
Dan Ariely: …Let me tell you one more thing. I spend a lot of time creating these classes online, and then I try to use two of them in my regular face-to-face class. And I did what is called “reverse classroom,” so I asked the students to watch the video at home and then come to class to discuss it. It was incredibly successful. I think the students enjoyed the videos and then they enjoyed the discussion. The other thing I tried to do, again with my face-to-face class, was to get them to watch the videos and to have all the discussion about it online. And that one was not as useful.
So the students in my regular class basically had three versions: they had me in person; they had watched the video and come in to have just the discussion; and they watched the video and had the discussion online. And they basically rated them in that order. They said it was the most useful to have me in class. Not too far from that is to watch the video of the material and then have the discussion in class. Much less appealing was to have the video and then have an online discussion on that.
That’s part of the story — that you are losing something as you become more detached from the students and have less face-to-face time, but you have to figure a version of how this could work out because of the cost of the full-time colleges and universities.
Now caveats, caveats: Dan is an accomplished teacher in a face-to-face setting, and probably a much less accomplished online moderator. So maybe part of what we are seeing here is just that Dan’s strength in explanation can be captured online, but his strength in facilitation can’t.
Here’s the thing though — this is true of most face-to-face teachers. This is what they’ve become really good at, year after year, and it’s the value they bring to the classroom. So any system of teaching that takes takes that core talent and throws it out the window isn’t likely to have a great success rate, no?
I think you can also argue that we privilege face-to-face communication more, assuming that it’s not inconvenient, and I think you can argue that online facilitation has to become a more common skill over time. But I’ve made enough points for today, so I’m done.