Saturday, October 27, 2012

What’s Good about MOOCs? (Or, They Aren’t About Selling Textbooks – They Are Textbooks)

In any event, as textbooks, I think MOOCs have a lot of possibilities. There’s potential there to deliver text, video, quizzes, exercises, etc., and there is also potential for the online discussion to supplement a conventional class, and vice-versa. With common gen-ed kinds of classes, that discussion could cross institutional lines, so you could have students at Harvard (or whatever fancy-pants school) engaged in the same discussions and problems as students at EMU or Washtenaw Community College. Plus a MOOC-based textbook could also host various kinds of “events” available for students across the world, maybe live lectures by the MOOC/textbook authors or tie-ins with relevant current events. None of this would take the place of an in-person instructor, though the MOOC-textbook might make it possible to teach more of these classes with people with less expertise. Again, this is pretty much what happens now in any class with a graduate assistant.
Is there money to be made off of this? Well, textbook companies make a lot of money, so sure. Students have so far been reluctant to pay for web-based textbooks (can’t sell them back to the store) and no one wants to pay for MOOCs. But if the MOOC was the requiredspace for things like quizzes and tests and the like, students would pay something, or maybe it is something that institutions would pay for and then pass on to students as tuition and fees.
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