EdX has done the same with their Introduction to Linux course: https://www.edx.org/course/linuxfoundationx/linuxfoundationx...
Contrast that to just putting up all five episodes on YouTube and leaving them there. What a relief! Skip a couple of days, and you're still watching the show, as far as you're concerned.
I can't fuss too much about such great courses that are offered to me for free, but it would be nice if they could routinely post the entire course and just leave it up. Each assignment could have its own forum thread, all of them in parallel, and reading back over these threads would probably clear up anything you were wondering about.
I know some courses are already of this sort. I hope more will move in this direction.
Hopefully MOOCs will eventually be similar to epub books; open format, meta data, a collection of digital objects.
Wiki, text, video, audio...people learn different ways in different order unless they're made to do otherwise. We're focused on the always curious person. MOOCs serve a different purpose so hard to see them going more unstructured.
The former category, I believe, is far more driven. These students are self-motivated, with a drive/need to learn and digest the information quickly and/or in their own timeframe (the "binge learners," similar to the binge watchers of entire seasons of television shows on Netflix).
The second category of MOOC students is more nebulous to me. Without specific intent and purpose, but enthralled by the potential to take courses and/or get course credit online, their urge to engage is simply less.
You, joshontheweb, clearly are of the first category, as am I, and I can sympathize with the irritation and frustration of waiting for material to appear.
The greater issues, as I see them, regarding MOOC and a free university education online, are that of measurement, breadth, and accountability. Taking courses online is akin to having a class where all the exams and benchmarks are "take-homes." We have no way to measure what is actually being learned, consumed, digested, encoded vs what is simply being spit back from a book or other source. What's more, when something is free, somehow people often don't value it in quite the same way. Ask someone to pay $5 for a class, and even that may motivate a different participation and engagement level. Kind of like buying a series of workout sessions with a personal trainer - you're far more likely to show up to the gym.
In regards to the breadth issue, universities make you take courses across a number of subjects and categories in order to make sure you have some basic foundational coursework under your belt. We may not have all enjoyed all of these categorically required classes, and if nothing else, a few left me with some fodder for dinner party conversation. The online university education system, in order to be truly beneficial, functional, and comparable for degree programs, will have to lay out some common minimum and breadth requirements, that may provide a replicable experience for students truly interested in pursuing an advanced degree. Of course, this really doesn't apply to those interested merely in enrichment and in-depth instruction on specific topics rather than a degree program. For these students, the availability of knowledge and practical implementation exercises is all that matters.
Finally, I see an issue with accountability, as in the difficulty with provided online students with enough structure and deadline as to promote a sense of onus and accountability. As noted earlier, this also ties in directly with the issue of not paying for coursework. Some might argue that releasing information weekly provides students with a benchmark of when and where they should be learning material; however, arguably, releasing the material from the get-go, and establishing an end-date for the course, by which time students must complete all graded coursework, would also suffice. I can't quite put my finger on it yet, but somewhere the measure of accountability within this space falls short. There is a nebulous void between the sources and recipients of knowledge and education online. Maybe it's the lack of true interaction, maybe it's the lack of classroom (the engagement of a finite group of students, seated next to each other, forced to endure the annoying drone of the heavy breather sitting next to you, the random but startling crackling of the lecturer's microphone, the timely malfunction of the overhead projector, the ripe and palpable angst during an exam…), or maybe it's just not education as I know, or knew, it, which doesn't mean a darn thing.
Having been in educational settings, both one-on-one and classroom, I fear I am quick to think of the students for whom this type of educational forum would be useless. Those students who look for the shortcuts, and simply want the accolades and recognition for having done something, with little impetus to do the work. Instead, as I write this, I think about the students for whom MOOC will truly be revolutionary and life-altering. For those students, who could not afford nor gain access to higher education, but who would do anything for it, then I imagine and hope that it would be for them that we would not have to worry about precise measurement and accountability. Instead, they will hopefully relish the opportunity to learn, breadth and all, striving to turn the opportunity into reality, recharting the courses of their futures, and approaching MOOC with gratitude and integrity.
Maybe there should be two tracks for the MOOC -- degree/certification/program based and the casual/intense/driven supplemental learner… the latter of which gets his or her material and supplementary exercises and resources in lump sum. The alternative, of course, is to do like you do with Netflix - wait for the entire season of [insert addictive show] to become available and commit 24 hours to watching the entire thing with minimal bathroom breaks and pausing to get a bowl of soup - wait until the course is almost over, then sign up, and you can go through everything all at once…
An online education service I'd like to see is not teaching but certification. They could recommend learning resources and offer email and voice communication with subject matter experts for feedback and questions as needed, but the main job would be assessing your competence in a specific area and backing it up with a guarantee. You could get a card showing certification in Calculus II (expires one year after issuance) or Early American History, or whatever. But when you pass certification, you actually know the subject - not just sleepwalked through the course doing the minimal busy work. The student may use whatever learning methods that work best for themselves to achieve this and employers looking for specific experts would have confidence in the possession of that expertise.
You appear to be describing essentially the model used by Western Governors University, http://www.wgu.edu (their "certification" is traditional degrees, and doesn't have an expiration date, but the educational model of focusing on demonstrated competence with the institution combining assessment with assistance in the form of recommended learning resources seems to be nearly exactly what you are describing.)
(I am not actually an expert in these areas, but I wanna be.)
Lectures are easier than creating a completely different methodology for teaching, so it's the first step in the process.
Similarly, I think the current iteration of 'online classes' is more similar to what online education will look like in 10, 20, or 50 years.
You assert that a lecture is the worst way to teach. What is a book or essay, but a lecture in written form? For some students, or some subjects, written text with diagrams might be superior. For others, a live voice, with gestures and diagrams might be superior. It's worth pointing out that, when a lecture is recorded, it can be sped up, slowed down, rewound, and so on. If a transcript is available, it can be skimmed for recall.
But, you might argue, lectures, essays, and any such static methods are still 'the worst'. Give me Socratic dialogues, interactive diagrams, hands-on labs and experiments! A - I'd assert that for some subjects (or portions of subjects), a lecture is actually better. B - This can and has been done in online classes, just as in real classes. In some ways, even attempting to use these 'new and modern' methods could be seen as an anachronism, to the extent they look similar to existing methods used in live classrooms.
As for certification, it's worth noting that some online course sites are positioning themselves as learning + certification sites. Also, isn't the blanket idea of 'certification' something of an anachronism? ;). Many on HN would argue that when hiring, a cert or degree is only a very rough filter, and interviews / work samples are superior for assessing competency in a subject.
Think about the current state of offline certification - we have things like University Degrees, CISSP, and the Bar.
University Degrees are a broad indicator of a person not being stupid, and perhaps having studied some particular topic at one point in their lives. On the other hand, most jobs treat them as necessary but not sufficient, and other jobs treat them as optional. Once a candidate is in front of an interviewer, a Degree probably won't sway the hiring decision much.
Then there's more specific certifications, like the CISSP. Like you were suggesting, the CISSP can be obtained without necessarily taking any other classes, as long as one has acquired the necessary knowledge and experience. Those hiring treat this certification anywhere from absolutely necessary, to nice but optional, to an indication that a candidate is undesirable.
And then there's certifications like the Bar. While not technically requiring taking any class, it would be fairly difficult to pass without one. It's an absolute necessity to have, to work in that field.
University Degrees range from mildly to very expensive (but at least some multiple thousands of dollars), and are a weak indicator. The CISSP exam is ~$500, not counting study materials, and is an 'ok' indicator. Merely taking the Bar will run multiple thousands of dollars, not counting the necessary classes, and is a strong indicator.
Where do you see your envisioned online certification service? Do you think you can crack the problem of actually useful certification, without charging students multiple hundreds of dollars per cert?
I quickly learned that outside of the Software Development discipline, and a precious few pure science fields, there are virtually no courses available. If you'd like to look into education or humanities or any of the thousands of other degrees? All you'll find are 101 level courses, if you find anything at all.
Hopefully this will improve, but I'm not holding my breath.
On the positive side, the benefits are substantial. 1. Democratized access to the world's top educators, 2. Low cost distribution of education.
On the negative side, the MOOCs are kind of the large classroom problem taken to the extreme. It's generally agreed that a classroom with more students per teacher is not as good as a lower student/teacher ratio.
But to critique my own negativity, the people working on MOOCs are smart and motivated. It's a bit naive to think that the current MOOC is as good as they will ever get. Clearly, these are early stage products that have substantial evolution and improvement in their future.
The one area in open education that needs to improve is around content licensing. If you look at most open educational content, the licenses are restricted open source (GPL like) and note unrestricted open source (MIT/BSD/Apache like). I fail to understand how making the content unrestricted would not benefit everyone.
There's an excluded middle here.
The tiny state school might have the best machine learning class in the world.
My counter example would be the Algorithms course from Princeton with Robert Sedgewick. I would rate that as basically "just ok."
As a university teacher the most important thing you have to do is to pitch the level right. Anything that isn't a top-level school suffers from the tyranny of low expectations, and the cliff after the first 20-25 schools in the rankings is really quite steep. There are no public ivies.
Yet somehow the University of California at Berkeley has one of the 4 best computer science programs in the world, and it's better than all but 3 programs at private schools (Stanford, CMU and MIT).
The critical component is someone putting together the order in which you learn it. Perhaps that requires top educators, but I don't think it really does. What MOOCs do that really benefits me is removes the wasted time of discovery with an ordered process that makes sense.
My daughter does Khan Academy. The information she is learning isn't particularly novel, however the order and structure is. That's the key.
Google searching for the same topics will get you great information as well, but you need to know what to search for. You need to include that search time through each part. You need to filter out bad material.
That's my view at least.
Actually, I'm starting to get worried about this. I took the first version of Andrew Ng's ML class in late 2011, and I'm taking a different Coursera class now, and there hasn't been much improvement that I can see in the basic offering. Specifically, one area where online classes should be able to outperform traditional classes is in the handling of pre-requisite material (since in a MOOC it isn't necessary for all of the students to see the same material, some could start at different points), but there hasn't been any work or progress in that direction at all. That may explain why almost all online classes are intro-level.
Or, if we allow students from remixing music and images in art studies, then their education is going to get worse?
Or if we allow students to take apart technical diagrams and improve on them, then their education is surely going down the hill?
Please enlighten us how such restrictions would help a student who want to learn, experiment and improve their skills. It might help akbar501 businesses if he could take something under bsd/mit and slap proprietary restrictions on them, but I do not count that as "benefiting education". Thats like me asking people to send me money in order to "benefit the economy".
MOOCs like Udacity and Coursera have a fair amount of funding...
I should have been explicit with the open content I was referring to. Specifically, I meant the content from Khan Academy, CK12, and the like. Not the for profit companies.
1) You actually socialize with classmates (I didn't).
2) You either went to a top ranked school or stayed in the area where those graduates generally migrate to. (I didn't)
3) You did activities outside of class (I did (mainly embedded or MS talks), but were outside where I'm actually doing, so I'd call this a wash too)
Only as a grad student in math (but not computer science) did I feel I got the kind of interaction that makes in person classes, lectures, interaction more valuable.
Honestly I don't think I got much out of university that I couldn't have gotten online.
Where I learned the most was my first three months in the industry. I learned VCS, scripting, bug tracking, code review, and about meet-ups/user groups. Basically everything important that wasn't programming.
At the time I didn't even know that was something your were supposed to do unless you were in a frat or a business major. To me college was a place to go and take classes and get your degree and that was pretty much it or at least that was what I was lead to believe was the only important part.
You just made the best argument in favour of the much ridiculed student success centers, deans of diversity &c. You can put someone from an educated family into a university and they will do just fine; if they aren't they will get advice from their parents, and then they will do fine. But access to university is less exclusive nowadays, and first-generation students will need some boost or prodding that their upbringing just couldn't provide to take all possible advantage of their environment (and it isn't their fault).
My dad got his degree; he was first generation and didn't get a lot out of it, so I'm basically a second first generation college student and have had to pick up most of this myself. My kids will get a lot more out of their experiences than I did though.
I'm 33 now, and have 15 years of experience in my field. I have a professional network that is incredible. I learned everything I know from online courses, or online documentation.
People who graduated college are years behind, and in debt for it.
So my argument is that a university is a poor place to build a professional network in comparison to your actual profession. Especially upwards where you will have contacts several places higher than you developed over years.
A professional environment introduces you to new developments in your field.
After that strong interaction, proximity is irrelevant.
I found out about it after taking several courses on www.Novoed.com including: "Technology Entrepreneurship" with Chuck Eesley (free, two-part course offered by Stanford University), "Startup CEO" with Matt Blumberg, "Venture Deals" with Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson, "The Startup Pitch" with +Chris Lipp, and "Raising Startup Capital" with Clint Korver. Miriam was previously CEO of Kauffman Fellows Academy.
I've referenced these courses and the type of opportunity MOOCs present on my personal blog while addressing the "Pipeline Problem" that has come up in relation to diversity numbers at major tech cos.