• © Seb Schmoller under
    UK Creative Commons Licence. In case of difficulty, email me.
  • Validate

« You have to take your hat off to Diane Ravitch | Main | Very enlightening study for the BBC about media literacy »


Thanks for posting this Seb - its a very interesting presentation. I am particularly interested in her ideas about data-mining of the courses they have created. She discusses improvement of the content on the fly and improving guidance using the data. What about mining the data to derive broader conclusions about what works in online learning? They effectively have a huge dataset for the testing of hypotheses; they could test different approaches with great ease and derive results very quickly.

She also discusses moving some of the mass instruction methods into traditional courses and thereby freeing up the face-to-face time to do the things that can only be achieved in that environment. This is much the same idea as 'flipped learning'.

Most of the improved learning being described here by Daphne looks like old-hat to some-one working on technology in English secondary schools. It makes me wonder about how much those teaching in HE are grounded in educational theory and research. I make myself deeply unpopular if I wasted the time of secondary school teachers by offering them the insight that large amounts of didactic instruction aren't very effective. Similar outrage would follow if Daphne tried putting her peer grading revelations to the teachers I work with.

Thanks Alex. I think it is safe to say that many people teaching in HE are not well-grounded in educational theory and research. I am not as confident as you are (but am much less close to the action than you are) that the bulk of teachers in schools are so grounded either, but I hope you are right on that score. Concerning data-mining, Daphne Koller makes it pretty clear that Coursera is already working on this; and it is certainly in Peter Norvig's mind in relation to the data from the "Stanford" AI course.

Thanks for posting this Seb. I won't comment on everything said just on the case provided at the beginning of the talk of the incident at the University of Johannesburg showing the crisis of access to higher education in South Africa. I do believe that the intentions presented are really good, and indeed Daphne Koller is correct that our participation rate is low relative to other countries, but I am afraid that the points made lack an understanding of local context. I am in favour of innovation and experimentation but would be fearful if these kinds of MOOCs were genuinely considered as viable alternatives to South African education problems of access and success. In short, the issue of preparedness for higher education and lack of success (i.e. throughput) is the most serious crisis, and that needs support, attention and pedagogical interventions. I recommend a paper by Fisher and Scott "Closing the Skills and Technology Gap in South Africa" (World Bank 2011) for details for a fuller picture.
Sorry to be lengthy but it is worth quoting from that paper
"Despite significant progress in expanding access since 1994, higher education in South Africa remains a “low participation–high attrition” system. Student outcomes are poor overall and highly unequal across both institutional types and racial groups. The participation rate of whites is well over 50 percent compared with 13% for Africans, and white students are almost twice as likely as African students to graduate within a 5-year period. By contrast, African students currently comprise almost two-thirds of higher education enrolments, yet only 5 percent of African youth succeed in any form of higher education. Improving graduation rates will hinge to a very large degree on the ability of the higher education system to increase the numbers of African students who succeed."

I do not think that MOOCs will be the key to that success.

Thanks Laura. I'll take the liberty of posting this link to your own piece Educational Technology for Equity, which adds additional context to your comment about higher education in South Africa.
-- Seb

The comments to this entry are closed.