This week, in honor of MediaShift’s launch of EducationShift, we’re turning our gaze to one of the biggest issues in higher education: digital disruption — with the advent of online education, e-learning and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). If the New York Times called 2012 “The Year of the MOOC,” then two years later, it’s high time to check in on how the buzzy education model has worked out. Prestigious schools including Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Princeton and others have all jumped on the bandwagon, partnering with MOOC providers to put free courses online for the masses. But recently, dropout rates as high as 97 percent have cast doubt on the benefits of MOOCs. How effective are MOOCs, and how might they contribute to future models of education? And, what about other models of online education, like e-learning? We’re joined by Rosental Alves, Director of the Knight Center that has created a variety of journalism MOOCs, and MIT postdoc Daniel Seaton, who co-authored a review of MIT and Harvard’s MOOCs. Regular panelists Andrew Lih of American University and Reuters’ Felix Salmon will also pitch in. As usual, PBS MediaShift’s Mark Glaser will host.
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Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is a longtime freelance writer and editor, who has contributed to magazines such as Entertainment Weekly, Wired and Conde Nast Traveler, and websites such as CNET and the Yale Global Forum. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Renee and son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.
Andrew Lih is a new media journalist and associate professor of journalism at the American University School of Communication. He is the author of “The Wikipedia Revolution” (Hyperion 2009, Aurum UK 2009) and is a noted expert on online collaboration and journalism. He is a veteran of AT&T Bell Laboratories and in 1994 created the first online city guide for New York City (www.ny.com). Follow him on Twitter @fuzheado.
Felix Salmon is the financial blogger for Reuters. He was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 Best Financial Bloggers, and offers his frank view on the maneuverings of Wall Street, Washington and popular culture. Watch him on Felix TV or follow him on Twitter @felixsalmon.
Rosental Alves directs the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Alves is a member of boards or advisory councils of several international organizations, such as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, International News Safety Institute, and Latin American Center for Journalism. Previously, he worked as a journalist in Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Mexico and the United States. You can follow him @Rosental.
Daniel Seaton is a lead author of the MITx and HarvardX course reports and a postdoc in MIT’s Office of Digital Learning. Seaton’s research focuses specifically on understanding student behavior in online courses in order to promote more effective learning outcomes.
Seaton and his co-author’s report pushes back against the frequently cited statistic of MOOCs’ high dropout rates. While few of the original enrollees finish a given course, each person approaches a course differently: some just to download the reading material or view the syllabus. The probability that a student would stop engaging with material after week two was only 16 percent, they found. But, attrition rates aside, other problems persist. If a student enrolled in a barrage of MOOCs, would that add up to a bachelors degree? One journalist tried this exact experiment and found significant variation in the quality and difficulty of the classes. How are MOOCs evolving to take into account these criticisms, and what is their role in higher education?
Beyond MOOCs, the internet has offered a variety of other ways for students to engage with material online. One program, Minerva Schools of KGI, is currently admitting its inaugural class that will engage in online and classroom learning to earn degrees. Though students are required to live on campus and attend classes in person, they are also expected to participate in rigorous online learning programs to supplement those courses. Other conventional universities are integrating online learning into their curriculums to get students caught up on the basics outside of the classroom. Harvard Business School, for example, offers students entry-level accounting courses online so that they could start with more advanced material in person. How will universities continue to use the internet to teach their students? Will the future of education still be brick-and-mortar universities, or combination of the traditional model with one that is virtual? Does online education threaten the business model of residential universities?
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Claire Groden is the podcast intern for PBS Mediashift and a senior at Dartmouth College. You can follow Claire on Twitter @ClaireGroden.