“On average, with all other predictors being equal, a student who worked offline with someone else in the class or someone who had expertise in the subject would have a predicted score almost three points higher than someone working by him or herself,” write the authors.The correlation, described by the authors as the “strongest” in the data set, was limited to a single instance of a particular MOOC, and is not exactly damning to the format. But it nonetheless may give ammunition to critics who say human tutelage remains essential to a good education.
The points raised here are important, but this shouldn’t be used as an anti-MOOC talking point. Common sense dictates that students who go the extra mile and seek out additional tutoring will do better than those who don’t.In any case, online education and face-to-face learning aren’t mutually exclusive options. Even most MOOC supporters don’t envision a world in which students learn exclusively by watching short videos while lounging on a sofa at home. Georgia Tech, which is pioneering a MOOC-based, fully accredited computer science degree program, specifically carved out a space for a new class of dedicated TAs who will supplement the classwork with smaller discussions and more intimate learning environments. If online education expands, as we believe it will, it’s likely to include a mix of online lectures and face-to-face seminars, small study groups, or the like.Far from being a death blow for MOOCs, this study is pointing the way to how they are likely to evolve.