I wrote the letter below to the Times Higher education a couple of weeks ago but it didn’t get published.
More about MOOCS
“Professor Laurillard’s comments (THE 16th January) about MOOCs that the ‘simplistic models of MOOCS are not the answer’ to solving the problem of mass higher education was a welcome antidote to some of the hype that surrounds this topic.
“The problem for me is that the term e-learning is often a ‘category error’. What institutions are doing is ‘e-teaching’: ‘e-learning’ is what students are doing (or, as I will allege, often not doing very successfully). The distinction is important because using the term e-learning encourages institutions to load up their virtual learning environments and MOOCS with all kinds of e-goodies such as podcasts, video clips, social software, and so on, without apparently being aware that this is really e-teaching, which may not necessarily lead to e-learning.
“I say this because the evidence that e-teaching has led to substantial increases in student success is rather thin. For example one of the principal exponents of e-teaching – the Open University – shows little signs that its e-emphasis has been a great success. Its graduation rate has fallen steadily from 57% in the late 70’s using conventional correspondence materials, to 48% in the late 80’s and now down further to 22% for the late 2000’s (HEFCE data), during which time it has gone largely over to e-teaching. That drop may not be the direct result of that change, but it doesn’t suggest that e-teaching has been a huge triumph.
“What we can safely say is that the ‘Open’ University’s move to e-teaching has excluded between 20% to 30% of the UK population who still don’t have effective internet access, and who are drawn largely from the most educationally under-privileged. I’m not sure Jenny Lee would have approved.
“But my main worry is the possible diversion of resources which are being directed into the OU’s MOOC ‘FutureLearn’. Given that its fees are now the equivalent of £5000 a year, perhaps the University should be paying more attention to its registered students and ask if it really is possible to use e-teaching to increase their success, or whether there are more effective means.”