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Life After MOOCs

By Phillip Compeau, Pavel A. Pevzner

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 58 No. 10, Pages 41-44

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Three years ago, Moshe Vardi published an editorial in Communications expressing concerns about the pedagogical quality of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and including the sentiment, "If I had my wish, I would wave a wand and make MOOCs disappear."9 His editorial was followed by studies highlighting various limitations of MOOCs (see Karsenti5 for a review).

We share the concerns about the quality of early primitive MOOCs, which have been hyped by many as a cure-all for education. At the same time, we feel much of the criticism of MOOCs stems from the fact that truly disruptive scalable educational resources have not yet been developed. For this reason, if we had a wand, we would not wish away MOOCs but rather transform them into a more effective educational product called a massive adaptive interactive text (MAIT) that can compete with a professor in a classroom. We further argue that computer science is a discipline in which this transition is about to happen.


Chia Shen

There are 10 occurrences of the word 'individual' and 'individualized' in this article. There seems to be a general neglect of the value of group learning in a classroom of a class size that probably should not be too small (as well illustrated in "David and Goliath" by Malcolm Gladwell).

Phillip Compeau

Chia: thanks for your comment! Gladwell aside, the issue of facilitating peer-to-peer interactions in the online arena is an important one, and one that is in its infancy, since most courses (including ours) rely on text-based discussion forums. One project that is doing great things in this area is Talkabout (https://talkabout.stanford.edu/welcome). These types of projects seem to have a more immediate need in online courses in the humanities, but I believe that finding ways of integrating them will be vital even for STEM courses down the road.

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