Paul Henderson. Thinking aloud about MOOCs

Lessons from MOOCs

 In previous writings I have hypothesised that one of the reasons for the success of alternative learning environments is that they provide far greater opportunities for dynamic formative assessment than conventional classroom environments. I had thought that far more research would be needed to confirm this hypothesis but recently I have discovered, thanks to the relatively recent phenomenon of MOOCs, that research has already been conducted which supports my hypothesis.

On the 2nd of July 2012 Professor Daphne Koller from Stanford University, a co-founder of Coursera, gave a talk at The University of London entitled “The Online Revolution: Education at Scale”. One of the many fascinating revelations in this talk was that MOOCs have provided the opportunity to turn the study of human learning from a hypothesis driven mode, which it has mostly been in so far, to a data driven mode, which has revolutionised other disciplines such as biology. One of the problems that Coursera is trying to solve, set by Benjamin Bloom in 1984, is called the 2 sigma problem. Bloom found that the average student tutored one-to-one performed two standard deviations better than students who learned via conventional classroom instructional methods, which means that the average tutored student was above 98% of the students in the control class.  A solution to Bloom’s problem would be to find a way to make classroom teaching as effective as one-to-one tutoring. It has been substantiated by analysis of the masses of data collected by Coursera that one of the key ways to solve Bloom’s problem is to utilise what professor Koller refers to as ‘immediate feedback loops’ which is almost identical in description to what I have referred to as ‘dynamic formative assessment.’ While this important new finding does not serve as 100% conclusive proof, it is a strong indicator that my hypothesis is correct.

Paul Henderson, April, 2013

About the author

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress | Two Thirds Design