With so much in the higher education media about what MOOCs can do for us, we wondered: What do professors who have taught these courses think? We looked behind the scenes for a new perspective.
The Chronicle ran a survey of 184 professors who have taught, or are currently teaching, a Massive Open Online Course. 103 of those professors responded, and though the survey size and methodology isn’t statistically significant, it’s important to remember that this is the first study of its kind, and that the idea of MOOCs itself is still a relatively new one.
Results were mixed, but usually overall positive. When asked if students who successfully completed a MOOC deserved formal credit from their own institution, a staggering 72% said no. But asked if they believed MOOCs were worth all the hype, a whopping 79% said yes. Interestingly enough, most professors surveyed felt that free online courses should be integrated into the traditional credit-degree system, and the majority believed that MOOCs would, in the end, make college less expensive.
But while those taking the courses may feel a benefit in terms of knowledge, it’s not clear who is winning and who is losing in the overall picture. As The Cite noted, 97% of instructors used original videos in their courses and reported spending more than 100 hours on MOOCs before the first class started—and that’s not even counting class work each week to answer questions and keep materials up to date. “I had no time for anything else. My graduate students suffered as a consequence,” said Professor Geoffrey Hinton from the University of Toronto.
Still, the professors surveyed felt that such a huge undertaking was a good experience. Before teaching a MOOC, just under 30% of the polled professors reported being ‘very enthusiastic’ about fully online courses, yet after the teaching experience, over 55% of them reported being ‘very enthusiastic.’ On the other end of the spectrum come the voices of professionals who say that MOOCs will hurt education in other ways: Officials in California worry that those who agree to teach online could undermine faculty intellectual property rights and collective bargaining agreements.
All in all, it seems that although the professors surveyed have positive thoughts overall towards teachings MOOCs, the true payoff and integration into higher education settings has yet to be determined.