This summer, I am working with undergraduate researchers Russ Allen and Leah Miller to study the new possibilities and enduring limits of open online learning. We are researching the subject through a grant provided by the Mellon Digital Humanities Fund and are experiencing the reality by actually creating our own open online course called “Understanding Lincoln,” in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Based on our initial survey of the literature, we have identified ten critical questions that will probably guide the rest of our research. We’re publicizing them here to share our initial work and also to help solicit constructive feedback. Please feel free to let us know what you think…
1. How does grading work for open, online courses, especially for written assignments? How can you prevent plagiarism and other forms of cheating?
2. What have been some of the best recent experiences for students in online learning?
3. Are MOOCs and other online courses good for some faculty and disastrous for others? Will more extensive online learning create deepening labor problems in academia?
4. Can tools and tactics developed for online courses help with regular courses? Can they actually improve teaching? Does “blended learning” work, and if so, at which levels? Also, are “flipped classrooms” effective?
5. How should we measure achievements in online learning –by registrations? By completions? By other types of assessments?
6. Who controls the intellectual property of online content and “courseware”? What are the leading models and challenges in this new open environment?
7. How difficult is it to create and maintain effective open, online courses –in time, labor, and money? Will this space become dominated by a handful of large providers?
8. Can MOOCs lower costs, especially for undergraduates? Will open, online courses succeed in providing cheaper and faster ways to obtain credits toward graduation? Can MOOCs benefit students outside of college? Will these certificates of completion help people compete in the job market?
9. Can open, online courses achieve something new in crowd-sourcing? Can students in such courses help build and develop shared projects as part of their learning odyssey?
10. Are MOOCs really something new? What has changed –if anything– that makes them seem so revolutionary?
This post is part of a series on “Making History Online” that involves an examination of open online learning. Students and faculty at the House Divided Project at Dickinson College are collaborating this summer on a new open, online course called, “Understanding Lincoln,” taught by Prof. Matthew Pinsker and covering ways to teach Abraham Lincoln’s legacy using close readings of his most important writings. This new type of online course represents a unique partnership between Dickinson College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The course is available for both graduate credit and free participation. Registration for the course closes on Friday, July 19, 2013. For more information, go to https://www.gilderlehrman.org/programs-exhibitions/understanding-lincoln-graduate-course.