More on MOOCs

Siva Vaidhyanathan on MOOCs, just to keep the discussion going.

If we support the MOOC experiment it would be foolish to do so without confronting the serious incentive problems MOOCs present to teachers, students, and institutions of higher education. These are not reasons to quit MOOCs. They are reasons to take them seriously and strive to maximize the rewards of MOOCs while curbing the perverse incentives.

We should offer MOOCs that aim for many levels of expertise and in many languages. We should not reward universities or faculty based on initial, inflated enrollment. We should question the “O” as in “open” because a flood of trolls is about to show up in MOOC discussions, threatening to ruin everyone’s best efforts. We should ask why universities are not hosting and launching their own homegrown MOOCs when the software is simple and the talent is all in-house. Why engage with private companies that have completely different missions and demands than universities do?

The piece as a whole reminds me of how difficult it is to have a conversation about teaching (or education more generally) that doesn’t immediately suck in all sorts of related problems (technological fundamentalism, corporatization, the adjunct problem, administrative bloat) that make universities today so complicated.


Why Johnny Can’t Write

The Atlantic has a nice debate up on the history of the teaching of writing that ought to interest several of our posters and commenters. As part of the series, Judith Hochman writes:

I have learned that celebrating writing is not the same as teaching children how to write — how to craft good sentences, develop a well-formed paragraph, and improve their work. Too often, teachers merely tell students to “add detail” or “summarize.” Frustrated students don’t know what to do, and many teachers haven’t learned the proper teaching skills in their graduate or professional development classes to effectively help them.

Make no mistake — done right, good writing instruction can extend learning. Diagramming sentences or doing page after page in grammar texts does not automatically result in better writers, although more able students enjoy these types of activities. There is evidence that confirms that teaching grammar in isolation does not lead to better composing. But research does confirm that when students begin to write more complex sentences, their reading comprehension improves. When they develop outlines, their organization and knowledge of text structure improves. When they respond to verbal questions using the prompts Tyre describes in the article, their oral language becomes more precise and sophisticated.

Stylish Academic Writing