I have taken a MOOC. It was offered by Stanford and was entitled “How to Learn Math”. The instructor was Dr. Jo Boaler. I took it because Jo Boaler is a “rock star” in math education right now and it was a chance to interact with her – at least at some level. There were almost 20,000 students in the class. I did finish the MOOC and earned recertification points. One aspect I really enjoyed was the ability to interact on discussion boards with math teachers teaching math at all levels (PK – college), all over the country and all over the world. I remember one conversation I had with an Australian secondary teacher and a Kenyan teacher. Our students were struggling with the same algebra concept. I found that interaction very cool. I signed up for a second MOOC through Coursera on “Problem Solving in Math”. It wasn’t what I thought it would be so I stopped participating after 2 weeks.
Similar to the MacDonald and Ahern article, the Boaler MOOC had inconsistencies as the course progressed. If memory serves me I believe they were making adjustments as they went to accommodate the large number of participants. Some were server issues due to the size of the class like videos not loading. The other had to do with feedback on assessments. Dr. Boaler had to pull in more graduate assistants to help her. Overall the content was very good and I would recommend the course.
I found the Zemsky article the most interesting of the 3 articles on MOOCs. The last couple pages raised some interesting points about MOOCs taking the place of gen ed requirements at colleges as a cost saving measure. While I am sure bean counters would lick their lips at that type of cost savings, I don’t think educators concerned about quality of learning will be as enamoured. Zemsky cites a Penn study that found only about 4% of students complete a MOOC. My suspicion is that the social piece of the puzzle is missing. (This would make a good research project.) With MOOCs the content is there, the technology is there and maybe even the top-of-the-field person is there but the social connection is not available so 90%+ of the students fall away.