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What MIT Should Have Done

By Dan W. Butin / June 2012

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  • Tue, 07 Jan 2014
    Post by Laura Jo

    Thank you for this amazing take on an amazing venture. It is very edifying as I am reading to prepare for a job interview for a position taking a major university further online. The metacognitive aspects of learning and the utmost importance of the student-teacher dialogic (I love it that you went all Bakhtin on us!:) are largely forgotten in the rush just to be present, be first; and it's great to see all of this pulled together in a positive argument for the wonderful potential in our midst! Now, just to fulfill it! Question: Do you have a recommendation for systems designs/processes to ensure (truly) adaptive elements are well-incorporated? I worked for 10 years in higher ed publishing in online design, and we struggled to come to the table with adaptive courses. We found ourselves stumped by technological and budgetary constraints. Thanks again!

  • Fri, 29 Jun 2012
    Post by Dan Butin

    To respond to some of the points:

    Thanks Allison for the kind words. Yes, I think this is going to have a major impact on public higher education in the coming years as more and more community colleges and public universities look into how this can support everything from remedial coursework to general education requirements.

    Thanks Batanayi for describing your project. I think computer automated intelligent tutoring systems are going to make a profound change in how we support students. See the work of the Open learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon.

    Artran, I dont think I was being harsh. Im very clear, and excited, that MITx is still at the beta stage. My hope is that with the right structure, the learning becomes much more powerful. But such changes can only be prompted by thoughtful and critical feedback. Thats all Im doing.

    SBonnell, I didnt take the course; I spent hours on the discussion board (until they made it private around the 11th week), followed the discussion boards set up on other non-MIT platforms, watched the available videos, and sampled some other MOOCs out there.

  • Thu, 28 Jun 2012
    Post by Allison

    Very much appreciated your piece. Agreed with most of it, had my issues with some of it. Will continue to stew on it, as every educator should.

    Heck, every tax payers should pay attention.

    There's opportunity here.

  • Wed, 20 Jun 2012
    Post by Batanayi Matuku

    This is an incredibly wonderful analysis you've provided here, Butin. Indeed, I'm one of those enthusiasts who promptly registered on one of the MITx courses when it was announcement. But to my total disappointment, I did not experience anything new or revolutionary in the learning process itself. Just to share with you something a bit about my current research activities here at the University of Cape Town (UCT); we're developing a collaborative platform named TutorPlus to help facilitate the actual HE tutoring activities. TutorPlus is especially designed to facilitate collaborative learner-centric activities through mediated discussions based on the social-cultural learning perspectives from theory. Fortunately, since early this year, I've been, and still am, busy working on a research study titled "Case Study: The impact of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning in Higher Education (HE)" at UCT just to experiment with what technology can truly offer the learner community at large. On the other hand, as you've mentioned in your revealing article, our current educational technology in HE is just too limiting on way or the other to fully deliver the expectations of the digital age learner. Otherwise, from our end, we're simply curious to ascertain how the initial version of TutorPlus impacts on one of the Information Systems modules during it's first test run this summer semester. And I will be more than excited to share the results when the case study finally comes to completion at the end of the semester towards the end of the year.

  • Thu, 14 Jun 2012
    Post by artran

    What Dan Butin's article should have said:

    I was right there with you, Dan, nodding in agreement with your vision of the future of education until I hit the paragraph that starts But there is a problem.... In that paragraph I found some whoppers that left me questioning the whole article. You see, I took the MIT course, and little in that paragraph rings true. Which makes me wonder, what else didn't Dan get right?

    We can all appreciate the power of a fully interactive avatar that will someday guide one along through the learning process (remember 'The Diamond Age'?). But that sort of learning, when it fully arrives, won't be applicable to all audiences, nor will it work in many situations. There's a reason Richard Feynman's physics lectures are still popular 50 years after they were recorded. A good educator, a really good educator, is a powerful motivator. In this MIT course there were several. By the end of the course they approached almost superhero status with the students.

    120,000 signed up but 'only' 10,000 took the midterm? Signup for the course was easy and free. Lots of folks just wanted to check out the buzz; they weren't going to spend 3 months on a serious undertaking like this. Was MIT really supposed to create a course that would hypnotize ordinary soccer moms such that they just had to learn how to design iPhones? In any case, 10,000 online students dwarfs MIT's on campus ECS enrollment - lots of folks weren't expecting that. Students falling asleep from boredom? Please! It's a voluntary course that has meaning only to a very small minority of the population that is serious about learning electronics, not compulsory high school. Anyone bored by the material will simply stop participating. Let's face it, very few folks get excited by 'Circuits and Electronics', even though they depend on their cellphones, TV's, cars, and all the other stuff brought to us by the electrical engineering that this course teaches. That's OK. I'm not sure the world even needs 120,000 more circuit designers than we had back in April. If students aren't motivated they just won't participate. But lots of people from all over the world stuck this course out and now want more. That's worth noting.

    What your overly harsh article fails to discuss adequately, and this is really important, is that there will be many kinds of exciting learning environments in the future. These new environments won't pop up fully formed overnight, and we shouldn't underestimate the power charismatic individuals have to inspire and motivate their students.

  • Wed, 13 Jun 2012
    Post by SBonnell

    Dan - one quick question - Did you take this MITx class ?