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MOOCs, MOCCs, and HarvardX

Yesterday I got a peek behind the curtain.

February 14, 2013

Yesterday I got a peek behind the curtain.

Previous StratEDgy posts have addressed the rise of MOOCS and MOCCs (our own term for Mid-sized Online Closed Courses) and edX  – and today about HarvardX

Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to attend a HarvardX Town Hall meeting, run by HarvardX faculty director Rob Lue, for Harvard faculty members and instructors to learn more about HarvardX.  And now I get it.

We’ve all heard how online education has the ability to fundamentally change how higher education is perceived and delivered, as well as how it will change the world through expanding access, decreasing costs, and creating a host of new materials that can be experienced in new ways. And I’ve even taken a MOOC.  But seeing clips of ongoing and upcoming HarvardX courses and modules, hearing from the faculty that have launched these courses and modules, and talking to the faculty and staff involved in the production and execution gave me a much deeper sense of the potential for this type of education.  The future looks very bright indeed. 

One of the demos was of a course module on Puritan poetry with Professor Elisa New. The clip shown – about 30 seconds long – was filmed in a church used by the Puritans, with students sitting as they would have, reading and singing the poetry, and the professor explaining some of the meaning behind the words and the rituals. It came alive. After seeing this clip, I had a much better sense of how it could be used as an online course (obviously), incorporated into a traditional on-campus course, put together with other modules to create a completely new offering, etc.

And then there was a presentation by David Malan, who teaches CS50, one of Harvard’s most popular courses, and the instructor behind CS50x, one of HarvardX’s first offerings. Malan discussed the research and tracking they’ve been able to conduct in the course, including stats on how long it takes teaching fellows to grade problem sets and what percentage of students do not look at the feedback provided by the teaching fellows, among other things.  One of the more interesting parts of Malan’s presentation was his explanation of how he had to rethink the way he presented material to make the best use of the online platform – including how a two-and-a-half hour session in the studio resulted in 30 minutes of usable tape, and then they threw that away and started over.  After spending four-and-a-half hours rewriting his talk, they reshot it for a ten minute video that was better than the much longer video.  So we are continuing to learn how to use this new medium for maximum effect. 

Very exciting stuff.


What else out there are you seeing and doing in the world of online education?

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Margaret Andrews

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