December 12, 2013

MOOCs and Online Learning: Students prefer good lectures over the latest technology in class

MOOCs,  "Massive online open courses" and other forms of online courses are being pushed by for profit companies and startups as ways to bring higher education to the masses. Apparently though, the average MOOC manages to have a drop out rate of 90%.
Venture capitalists have invested in companies to deliver MOOCs, such as Coursera. The first MOOCs were delivered in Canada to smaller than 5000 students at a time and their founders used more than just video, quizzes and multiple choice methods. They used the entire internet's resources. What we see now as MOOCs are basically classroom recordings put online, with students doing rather bland multiple choice questions, short summaries of literature reading assignments and students marking each other "blind".

There are lots of opinions from professors and consultants regarding online learning. Not that useful. As a scientist, and an educator, I am more concerned with: what actually works? When it comes to teaching how to do biochemistry in a research laboratory for example, I have already figured out that I can mentor and teach someone to be a real scientist by making them do science research on my team. In my lab. Since every student has a different starting set of knowledge and experience when they hit my lab for their independent research projects, they all get a "different course" from me as their preceptor. That is not the kind of a course that you can just pre-record and put online. It could be done in distance learning with LIVE online video, because the student and I could "talk".

The most important talks I have with my students are just verbal or using a secret chalk board on the back of my lab's main door. Swinging it closed a bit, they know what's coming. A 15 minute session of sip your water or coffee and get a lecture from Dr M. But, it works. They know things now about DNA, genes, photoreceptors, PCR, lab management, what differentiates a fluke result from a reproducible result, and how long it takes to complete real lab-based biomedical research. No matter what the form of teaching and delivery though, there is one MASTER secret about making the teaching work well. Its obvious to me what it is, and all the research and discussion of "pedagogy" (definition: the method and practice of teaching) is mostly hand waving around the real secret of student/teaching interaction that works. It easy to figure out if "learning" is happening, far easier than what most learning consultants would have you believe. What is my secret?

December 2, 2013 Info Navigator for Winter Games: Appstore for Android

December 1 - My holiday gift to everyone, worldwide.
Info Navigator for Winter Games. 

You can get this App in the GooglePlay store, and now you can get it for your Kindle too from Amazon. Use the following link: Info Navigator for Winter Games: Appstore for Android

Kindle App Features

  • Follow Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on your Kindle.
  • Schedules of events and Android powered maps of event locations.
  • Links to quickly find main broadcast Sochi 2014 Olympic websites.
  • @OlympicNav Twitter Feed of sports information 365 days/year.
  • Free, NO-ads, non-profit, a gift from a University Professor to everyone.

This continues the tradition of "Info Navigator for London2012" and lets you be ready to follow the Olympic games in 2014, yet still get your work done during the day.

This App has a small memory footprint by using the browsing and map navigation capabilities of your Kindle's Android system. 

I make it free and Ad-free to support amateur sports and some pro-sports. So please pass this on to your friends, tweet it, facebook it. Give it away for free.


Ken Mitton
your Science Ranter.