View Full Version : MOOCs - uhhh...?

04-28-2014, 09:29 PM
This might sound like a silly question, but can someone tell me about MOOCs? I have discovered through Ms Googlepants that they are free, online courses, but I was wondering if there was a "best site" for homeschoolers interested in MOOCs, and why they are a better option for many homeschooled students as opposed to other routes of study.

My DS prefers study that is out of the box and of a more eclectic nature - he loves homeschooling, so no surprise, I guess - and I wonder if MOOC-style courses might be an idea for a lead-up to community college/university.


04-28-2014, 10:01 PM
A lot of the MOOCs are university level courses, so I don't believe they would be a good fit for all homeschoolers.
I would say they are good for a mature, self-directed student who is ready for that level of work. We have used Coursera and Udacity.

04-28-2014, 10:58 PM
Agreed. MOOCs are generally short (4-12 week) university-style classes. My son is doing a self-paced college algebra course, though, which is much longer (year long at his pace). We've also used Coursera and Udacity. They are free, and they are not 'official' in any way, though you can get a (probably useless) certificate of completion if you 'pass' - passing is defined differently in different classes. Some have quizzes, some have papers graded by other participants, etc.

There are also paid options for most classes, but i'm not entirely sure thats useful in any real way? Although I am considering doing a data specialty.

Anyways, just have him browse the titles and look at the preview videos. and remember - no repercussions from taking it and failing it or taking it and dropping it.

04-28-2014, 11:37 PM
I think... though who knows because they're so new... that they're probably not useless in college admissions for homeschoolers. You can put them down on a high school transcript and the admissions people will know what they are. In terms of getting a degree or a job, yeah, probably mostly useless beyond the skill you obtain.

05-05-2014, 09:04 AM
Here's a website (http://www.homeschoolcollegeusa.com/high-school-studies.html) for online courses for college-bound hsers: High School Studies - HC USA (http://www.homeschoolcollegeusa.com/high-school-studies.html). Saylor.org is also developing open high-school courses and already has open college-level courses.

In the higher-ed community, there are some very mixed feelings about MOOCs in terms of outcomes for students. The argument from many faculty members is that MOOCs lack the crucial element of instructor/student interaction, a hallmark of high quality education, that the courses are poorly designed, and that completion rates are poor (10 %). These are the people sitting on your child's admissions panel. I don't agree with them, but that's another post.

My .02: If you are going to use a MOOC, use one from one of the Ivies and make sure you document the end-product (huge research paper, website, something substantial) in your course description so it looks like substantial work. We plan to use some in our hs high school for "fun"/electives, but will mostly stick to community college classes, AP, and CLEP exams to document advanced work that doesn't come from the House of Mommy.

05-05-2014, 09:25 AM
I would NOT recommend only using MOOCs from Ivies unless you think it will help with aiming for similarly elite schools - i would recommend taking the ones that interest you . . .

05-05-2014, 10:35 AM
My son is taking a 6 week course right now and loves it. There are quizzes that he enjoys and he really likes the online format. Fwiw.

05-05-2014, 11:08 AM
I would NOT recommend only using MOOCs from Ivies unless you think it will help with aiming for similarly elite schools - i would recommend taking the ones that interest you . . .

I think it depends on why you are enrolling in the MOOC. Those by the Ivies and other elite schools generally are produced using much more funding and people/planning resources, which usually translates into better course design and more multimedia resources. Comparing a course by edX, a consortium of elites, with a course by University of the People reveals substantial differences in quality. For fun classes or student interest, I think good course design and student interest are indeed the most important things.

05-05-2014, 11:24 AM
Thanks for all suggestions, folks. I will look into all this over the "summer break" (double quote marks = not really taking a break). DS really wants to look at community college classes, if he can, when he turns 16 in a year's time, so anything that can bring him closer to that goal will be helpful.

05-05-2014, 08:06 PM
I took a MOOC from Rice on programming in Python last fall and was actually really impressed from the standpoint of someone just wanting to brush up on programming skills with a new language. The class was entertaining, engaging, and just challenging enough to keep my interest through a busy time of year. From what my Physics prof friend told me, a number of colleges are using these MOOCs for pedagological research, so the quality of the free courses should continue to rise. Some are even getting grants from people looking to develop on-line curricula. My friend finds the whole thing unsavory and contributing to the dilution of undergraduate education. I haven't looked deeply into the controversy, but as Soulhammer suggested it wouldn't be a bad idea for you to look into it and keep it in mind when you figure out how to present your son's work.

BTW: I think the course I took would be fine for a high school student with an interest in programming. I even considered having my middle school student take it, but she's pretty focused elsewhere right now.

05-05-2014, 08:48 PM
When I look at the classes on Coursera, they're almost all from high quality universities - private ones and flagship state universities as well as large universities in other countries. I seriously doubt you're going to get so much more out of a course from an Ivy than from a school like Rice, mentioned above. And besides, if the thing you want to learn is specific, you're better off getting a course from a school focused on that. I'd much rather do a MOOC on a music topic from Berklee than from an Ivy.

05-05-2014, 08:50 PM
It's also sort of about the democratization of education. That's the thing that MOOC's bring, right? And we're still here hung up on Harvard. I seriously doubt most colleges care that much which school the MOOC came from anyway.

05-05-2014, 10:25 PM
I have to admit, i've jumped in and I'm doing a for-money Coursera MOOC series . . . Data Science (https://www.coursera.org/specialization/jhudatascience/1?utm_medium=listingPage), which seems relevant to my work - and I'll be job hunting (probably) in about 18 mo so . . . keeping busy .. . Oh, and it is from John Hopkins, which is kinda funny - I was there as part of a talent search once when I was a kid, so it impresses me . . . but I would have taken it from a good state school, too

05-08-2014, 09:02 AM
It's also sort of about the democratization of education. That's the thing that MOOC's bring, right? And we're still here hung up on Harvard. I seriously doubt most colleges care that much which school the MOOC came from anyway.

In the context of undergraduate college admissions (I can't speak to adult and continuing ed, which are substantially different from what we generally talk about here or what I know), MOOCs don't hold much weight, period, when you look at a candidate's admissions packet. AP scores, GPA, extracurriculars, and the usual suspects are what do count.

And indeed, I should have said "elite," not "Ivy," which includes lots of schools that are centers of excellence depending upon the field.

Again, it isn't about being hung up on Harvard. It's about available resources to design and produce a course on that scale, and like it or not, some institutions just have greater resources. Not my battle, as I am not tying my education, that of my children, or my teaching practice to what happens at Harvard or in the MOOCs. :)

Although there has been a lot of talk about democratizing education through MOOCS and digital delivery of instruction, early results are showing that these formats have many of the same problems as traditional models, and that groups underserved by those traditional models find even greater challenges as they work within these newer models.

As a motivated adult learner, I have benefitted enormously from some of the well designed online learning experiences available to me now. As an online educator, instructional designer, and program administrator, I have also had the chance to see how inadequately funded and poorly designed online programs pushed by institutions and state legislatures unwilling or unable to provide adequate resources have a negative impact on the retention, access to quality education, and success of undergraduates.

We've gotten far afield here...