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The problem with MOOCs

The problem with MOOCs

The problem with MOOCs

I like MOOCs (Mass online open course). The better ones deliver 101 style courses, using a mixture of tedious video lectures, random pdfs and powerpoints, multichoice tests, and coding in small environments.

Sadly they think that you can sign up (and pay for) to an accredited course, and you will get a jolly little certificate showing that you completed the MOOC. Unfortunately, given the alternative, it is entirely possible to get a good grade on the accredited course by fairly obvious means without actually studying anything. I recently completed a problem set using a triangular search which took 7 iterations. I was more interested in the probability of answering the question within N steps than whatever tedious point the question was making.

So, a warning to all interviewers out there, a certificate from a MOOC means nothing. And a request to the MOOC people out there, sort this out please.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: The problem with MOOCs

There were some from Lynda.com that were very good, but then linkedin bought it so I don't know. The one I tried was from a coupon that came with a version of Photoshop and I enjoyed it. I had used Photoshop for a while and found Lynda.com's version to be informative.

OTOH - I've also watched a large number of courses on YouTube from MIT, Stanford, and UCLA/UCB and agree that the results are truly mixed. The largest problem is that many of them are recorded from classes where there are labs, so the lecture is only 30% of the information the course requires. It's a bit frustrating to have the lecturer skip from a grade-school level description to a Masters level, sometimes in the same sentence, when it's clear they can do that because the gap is covered elsewhere. And UCB can kiss my butt for not creating playlists for their courses and instead just putting all 10,000 or whatever into one pile so that finding the initial videos is nearly impossible.

One model that I would like to see more of is that from Kahn Academy. It is evidence based grading and the only passing score is 100% for some number of consecutive tries. They use question generators so there is no means to 'cheat' by copying or memorizing answers. One can review the progress etc. Look for Sal Kahn's book about his concept that, for pure academics, a guy in a dirt-floor hut should get the same respect at completing a course as a guy who goes to a fancy prep school or big name university with both having demonstrated mastery of the same level of material.

At the bottom of the list are garbage courses with generic scripts. PillSkort or some name like that. Pillskort is very popular with the HR crowd for claiming to provide in-house opportunities, but I can guarantee no one in HR has ever tried a course from them, but they like the sales pitch.

RE: The problem with MOOCs

The data science MOOC through coursera gets high reviews. I have gone through a few and they are worth watching. The lectures were on par as to what I saw in university. The homework is watered down so not too many people drop out and people can get by asking each other questions.

The accreditation thing I thought was if you were willing to pay more real review of homework and exams and additional course work. I finished my masters through an outreach programs, which is different but I really do believe, at least with graduate work, online learning is the future. Undergrad, I don't know. You are learning how to learn in your undergrad. In graduate school, you figure it out your self witha little guidance.

I don't think MOOCs area cure all but for someone boning up on a topic by themselves for work or whatever, they are excellent.

RE: The problem with MOOCs

I too enjoy these courses, I listen to downloaded lectures via the Coursera app to supplement music and podcasts throughout the day. Personally I find the courses either really good or really bad with not much in-between. The later often make me think that I should take up teaching full-time despite my enjoyment of work in outside industry.

RE: The problem with MOOCs

I'm glad to be at a stage in life where I study what I want. Learning to be a machinist on my own time, with help from youtube videos and practical experience (machine a model steam engine from castings, e.g.). Much more fun than going to school.

RE: The problem with MOOCs

I did the MIT Classical mechanics one, and they had videoed experiments that you then had to analyse. It's not as as good as a real lab, but it is 1000x better than watching someone else doing it.

I'll look at Kahn, sounds like the right approach.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: The problem with MOOCs

My wife did a statistics course through CourseRA and John Hopkins last year - she paid to get the course accredited which included doing a typing test (to create a typing 'fingerprint' and taking a photo with the webcam for each assessment she sat). Not sure how effective this is at preventing cheating (I think there were other things they did as well), but I think the main issue is just knowing what the difference is between the 'legit' certificate, and the free one you can get just by signing up.

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