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Education Your Rights Online

How MOOC Faculty Exploit People's Desire To Learn 115

RichDiesal writes "Just as businesses try to make something off of massively online open courses (MOOCs), so do the faculty running them. But instead of seeking money, MOOC faculty seek something far more valuable: a cheap source of data for social science research. Unfortunately, the rights of research participants are sometimes ignored in MOOCs, and successful completion of courses are sometimes held hostage in exchange for mandatory participation in research, as in this case study of a Coursera MOOC. Such behavior is not tolerated in "real" college courses, so why is it tolerated in MOOCs taught by the same faculty?"
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How MOOC Faculty Exploit People's Desire To Learn

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  • Sounds . . . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mitchell314 ( 1576581 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @04:17PM (#45449953)
    Sounds like somebody has an axe to grind
  • Quid Pro Quo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jim White ( 3435295 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @04:21PM (#45449985)
    It's tolerated for the same reason "free" services such as those provided by Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and most any other important social media company display ads and do data mining on visitor and subscriber behavior. The research being conducted with the data collected in MOOCs is one of the most socially valuable results possible since it leads directly to better education for the world. As Andrew Ng has stated plainly, his primary concern in participating in Coursera is delivering the best education possible to the world's poorest people. Coursera A/B tests most every aspect of the student learning experience and makes decisions based on what results in the best student learning outcome. Exactly what better system are you proposing?
  • Re:Quid Pro Quo (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 17, 2013 @04:27PM (#45450029)

    "important" social media? Are you high?

  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @05:18PM (#45450295)

    I think it's pretty obvious to everyone that a MOOC is going to be an inferior experience to a physical lecture and TA-led study sessions. On the other hand it's drastically better than the "no education" you could alternately get for the same price. And if you have an axe to grind against 50,000:1 ratios, are you volunteering to teach at more reasonable ratio in southern Africa or India at local wages?

    As far as the lecture itself goes, frankly I would be surprised if 50,000:1 were notably worse than the 500:1 you sometimes see in intro courses, or even a 50:1 ratio. Once the class is too large for the professor to meaningfully engage with students individually then what does it matter how many extra eyes are watching?. It might even be better given the quantized feedback and sample size, and the fact that you can actually read the "blackboard" comfortably. Not to mention immediately back up and repeat any bits that confuse you.

  • by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @05:34PM (#45450383)

    Going to a brick and mortar univerrsity will cost you tens of thousands of dollars. How much do MOOCs cost you? Most likely the cost is zero.

    As someone who needed to spend years crawling out of my university debt, you would need to use an electron microscope to see the size of the violin I'm playing right now.

    Nothing in this world comes for free, nor should it. If you don't like it, then do without, you bloody self-entitled cheepskates.

  • by eatvegetables ( 914186 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @11:27PM (#45451871)
    I have surveyed several coursera courses and completed a couple. Being a Comp Sci, telecoms professional, I derived tremendous value from Coursera material related to these disciplines. Only cost is my time. The video lectures are gold. Most classes that I've seen are project based. Learning is doing. In general, I've found that course difficulty usually floats somewhere between college senior and first year grad student. Some are just insanely hard. One has to accept that one bit of important material is missing, proofs. Just no way to auto-grade them, in general. I haven't seen anything to complain about.

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev