Monday, August 18, 2014

Online Evolution and Predictions

It is known that HarvardX and other institutions continue to create new massive open online courses (MOOCs; see the current list at harvardx.harvard.edu/modules-courses).But with hundreds of offerings available on edX, Coursera, and emerging platforms (such as the Business School’s HBX; see harvardmag.com/hbx-14), emphasis is now shifting to research on applications and assessments.


One promising avenue is the “blended” or “flipped” course, in which content such as recorded lectures is made available to students, like a multimedia textbook, before they meet with teachers in the classroom. Gordon McKay professor of computer science Harry R. Lewis described how he reengineered a course this way, with low-tech recordings costing a tiny fraction of the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in a full-scale HarvardX offering, in “Reinventing the Classroom” (September-October 2012, page 54).


Such courses appeal for two very different reasons. They may deepen learning, if class time formerly spent on lecturing is used instead to grapple with difficult concepts or work through problem sets with fellow students. They can also be an avenue toward efficiency and economy as more students, in effect, share a lecturer.

Online Evolution