Articles about Online Programs

MOOKs Five Years Later    26 August 2016

In a recent article, Phil Hill examined the rise and fall of the MOOK but pointed out the influence it had on the further development of online learning.  See

The Future of the MOOK    15 July 2016

Daphne Koller, one of the co-founders of Coursera, talks about the future of MOOKs in a podcast that the Chronicle of Higher Education produced.  The transcript and link to the podcast are available at

MOOK Gone Bad    8 June 2016

Richard McKenzie, a retired economics professor now from the University of California at Irvine, sued one of UC-Irvine’s deans as well as the university because of difficulties with a MOOK he taught, in 2013, that had more than 35,000 students.  While the course was on line, Coursera, which provided the platform for the course, and the university agreed that McKenzie should disassociate himself from the course, in part because of his frustration with the students who enrolled and did nothing and others who contributed without having studied the required materials.  In the end, the course ran without McKenzie, who lost the rights to his materials, including videos, which is why he went to court.  In 2014, the parties settled with an undisclosed agreement.  Since then, other difficulties with MOOKs have surfaced, and while they continue to be a part of the educational scene, they have lost the early hype associated with them.  See

New Ways for "Accrediting" MOOKs    5 March 2015

Through partnerships with specific businesses, Coursera announced that it will offer a capstone experience, some at a cost of $500, to verify skills that an individual has acquired through several MOOKs that combine to form what Coursera calls course specializations.  Other online education firms also have partnered with business to make their courses more acceptable in the workplace.  See

Great Results in a MOOK    8 November 2014

Researchers examined a MOOK physics course from 2013 and determined that all students who diligently worked on the course materials learned at the same rate as MIT students, regardless of the students’ institutional affiliation, even if they did not do that well in the course.

The implication is that students everywhere have the same potential to learn, and while the MIT selection process may screen out some of the less well-prepared students, all those who apply themselves can benefit.  The study is further evidence of the errors in the perception that elite colleges are better than others.  Professors at small colleges and state institutions long have known that their courses may be on a par with what are perceived as the country’s top schools but that the students, either because of less dedication or the need to pursue full-time employment, do not perform to their full capacity.

Columbia University Offers Foner’s Civil War Course as a MOOK    17 October 2014

Columbia University is offering Eric Foner’s course on the Civil War and Reconstruction as a MOOK.  The free course has three parts: 1850-1861, 1861-1865, and 1865-1890.  See and

University IT Specialists Less Interested in MOOKs    17 October 2014

The interest of campus information-technology administrators in MOOKs is diminishing because they are finding them less attractive as a means of online instruction and less likely to generate new revenue.  The study appears in the 2014 edition of the Campus Computing Survey.  See

Coursera Expanding MOOK Offerings    17 October 2014

Coursera announced that it is offering 18 specialization programs to students who complete several MOOKs in specific areas, mostly in computer-related areas.  See

State of the MOOK    17 October 2014

Jeffrey Selingo, of the Chronicle of Higher Education, reviewed the usefulness of MOOKs after the hype about them has diminished.  The article is based on his recent book about MOOKs.  See

Face-to-Face Instruction for MOOKS    12 May 2014

The New York Public Library will offer face-to-face assistance for students enrolled in certain MOOKs.  It appears that performance improves when students meet with an instructor in a small group.  Perhaps in a few years, the traditional classroom once again will become the front line in the effort to improve education. See

MOOKS: Now You See Them, Now You Don't    15 April 2014

The media seems to have lost its interest in MOOKs, but they still are a part of higher education.  It seems, though, that the MOOK providers no longer are talking about revolutionizing the college experience with MOOKs but using them to supplement the classroom experience.  See

Gallup Poll Regarding Online and Traditional Education    15 October 2013
Gallup recently polled Americans about their use of and opinion about online courses and about education in general.  While Americans perceive online courses and degrees as having a wide selection and offering good value, they do not view them as aiding in student success, tailoring to student needs, offering high-quality instruction, having trustworthy grading, and garnering the respect of employers.  They believe both community colleges and universities are the same when it comes to offering quality education.  Americans also tend to believe that acquiring job skills are more important than getting a college education, particularly those who are white, below retirement age, Republican or independent, and have a four-year degree or less.  Those who value college education the most are older Americans (is this proof that age brings wisdom?), non-whites, those with postgraduate degrees, and Democrats.  The complete survey is at
Students and Employers Skeptical about Online Degrees    20 September 2013
A study by Public Agenda ( has determined that 56 percent of employers would prefer to hire graduates with a conventional education as opposed to those with online degrees.  Furthermore, 42 percent of students at community colleges believe they learn less through online courses than they do in the classroom.  Many who have taken online courses even wish they had taken fewer of them.  A summary of the study and a link to the complete report is available at

The study quantifies anecdotal evidence that many professors have known for years.  Many advise students to limit their number of online courses, which may be practical and convenient but rarely substitute for the classroom, where direct social interaction contributes to learning and where the professor has more flexibility to adjust the material he or she is presenting.
The Morality of MOOCs    18 September 2013
Johathan Malesic, an associate professor of theology at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA, argues in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that MOOCs foster social inequality and that Catholic institutions of higher education shouldd resist offering and accepting them.  See    12 September 2013
Google and EdX are collaborating to create an open-patform MOOC for professors from any institution who wish to create a MOOC and put it on line.  The courses will be free to any viewer.  More information is at and in the article at
Coursera’s Profitability    6 September 2013
In an article for The Nation, John Wiener questions the viability of the MOOC from the economic standpoint, even though the company pledges that it will “bring the genius of the free market to higher education by reducing labor costs (i.e., professors) and introducing economies of scale (teaching tens of thousands of students in a single course).”  The fact is that it has no novel way of making a profit, and the students who are supposed to benefit from the free and open courses are not getting credit for them.  Even when that possibility exists, students tend to opt for the more expensive traditional classroom.  See
The Hype of the MOOCs    6 September 2013
The Nation has published an article by David L. Kirp that looks at the hype and hysteria surrounding MOOCs, particularly in the past year or two.  It appears that not only professors but also students are realizing that MOOCs are not a viable alternative for a professor in a classroom.  See,0#axzz2e77YL7Yz.
Protest against MOOCs    3 September 2013
Mitchell Duneier, a professor of sociology at Princeton University, has declined to continue offering his MOOC.  Coursera had offered him the opportunity to teach the course so that other universities can use it in a blended format, but he feared that courses like that would lead state legislators to decrease state education budgets.  See
MOOCs Make Slow Progress    8 August 2013
MOOCs have not expanded at the rate many of their supporters had expected and many of their detractors had feared.  Part of the problem is resistance.  An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Steve Kolowich considers the present state of MOOCs and their future.  It is available at
MOOCs and Social Skills    30 July 2013
Jennifer M. Morton, who teaches philosophy at the City University of New York, argues that students from low-income and immigrant families and those who are first-generation college students do not get the social interaction from MOOCs and online courses that employers desire.  These skills are interaction with a diverse group of people, dealing with people in authority, and other middle-class social skills that help provide upward mobility.  Her article, “Unequal Classrooms: What Online Education Cannot Teach” is in the online version of the Chronicle of Higher Education on 29 July 2013 at
History MOOCs    18 July 2013
A discussion of history MOOCs, including links to them, appears at
Bill Gates on MOOCs    16 July 2013
At the Microsoft annual faculty summit, Bill Gates has praised the development of MOOCs, stating that they provide an opportunity to change the notion that a college education is necessary for employment.  He also stated that labs and small classes have their role in the education process.  See
One-to-One Teaching Still Counts, Even for MOOCs    8 June 2013
A study by researchers at MIT has determined that students taking MOOCs do better when they get assistance from someone who has experience with the material.  The conclusion is that individual and small group work with an expert still is essential to learning.  The study also determined that the discussion forum of a MOOC was more important for completing assignments than the lectures, tutorials, or the textbook.  Read more at  A copy of the study is at

San Jose State Professors Reject Harvard MOOC    2 May 2013

Professors at San Jose State in California have rejected the use of a popular MOOC titled "Justice" that originates at Harvard University.  While they have nothing against the scholar who teaches the course, they take exception to some of the underlying difficulties with MOOCs.  In their open letter, they noted that "having a scholar teach and engage with his or her own students is far superior to having those students watch a video of another scholar engaging his or her students."  In their letter, they also expressed their concern that administrators are viewing MOOCs as money-saving devices that will create "two classes of universities . . . one, well-funded colleges and universities in which privileged students get their own real professor; the other, financially stressed private and public universities in which students watch a bunch of videotaped lectures and interact, if indeed any interaction is available on their home campuses, with a professor that this model of education has turned into a glorified teaching assistant."  Read more at and

Results of CHE Survey of MOOC Instructors    18 March 2013

On 18 March 2013, the Chronicle of Higher Education released the results of a survey it conducted of 103 instructors who have taught MOOCs (it sent out 184 requests).  Most felt that such courses could reduce the cost of higher education at their institution and overall.  When asked if students completing their own MOOC should get credit for it, 72 percent said no, but 34 percent believed their institution, just the same, eventually will give those students credit.  As far as assignments are concerned, 97 percent required their video, 79 percent required open educational materials, and 27 percent required other materials.  Only 9 percent made their students purchase a printed text, and only 5 percent had them purchase an e-text.  Most students who start a MOOC do not complete it, and the respondents reported that the average pass rate was 7.5 percent.  Professors generally spent more than 100 hours preparing a MOOC and 8-10 hours each week maintaining the course, while 55 percent reported that it took away time from regular teaching, service, and research.  Nevertheless, 79 percent said that MOOCs are "worth the hype."  The professors stated that they taught MOOCs to help make higher education more available to students and because they were curious or wanted the publicity for themselves or their publications.  Only 6 percent claimed they were financially motivated, and only one respondent hoped that offering the course would bring them tenure.  The article with the results of the survey is at

Basic MOOC Guide    14 March 2013

The Chronicle of Higher Education has created a web page to introduce readers to MOOCs that it will update on a regular basis.  The address is

The Skeptics: Joseph Harris--"Teaching by Hand"    12 March 2013

Joseph Harris, who teaches at Duke University, criticized the concept of mass teaching in MOOCs by arguing that, in the traditional classroom, he is not teaching a course but individual students.  That is the notion of "teaching by hand," a phrase he borrowed from a friend.  Harris contends that the professor in a MOOC never could provide the individual attention that he or she could give to students in a traditional classroom.  See

Online Courses Could Result in Achievement Gaps    22 February 2013

A recent study suggests that students taking online courses do not do as well as those who take traditional classes.  This could result in a gap between students who can afford to be in the classroom and those who must resort to the online environment, including MOOCs, for a significant portion of their education experience.  See

Professor Resigns from Teaching His Own MOOC    18 February 2013

Richard A. McKenzie, a professor emeritus teaching a MOOC at the University of California at Irvine, withdrew from teaching the course, which is titled "Microeconomics for Managers."  The dispute did not originate with Coursera but at the university.  McKenzie's posts indicate that it had to do with student complaints over the cost of the text book (McKenzie is the co-author, and the cost is $87.24) and the amount of work in the course.  McKenzie responded that “I will not give on standards, and you also should not want me to, or else the value of any ‘certification’ won’t be worth the digits it is written with.”  Coursera will continue to run the course, which has approximately 37,000 students, without the professor.  For more information, see  The description of the course is at

American Council on Education Approves Five MOOCs for Credi   7 February 2013

The American Council on Education (ACE) has approved five MOOCs in the STEM fields for credit that are offered through Coursera.  The institutions offering the courses are the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, and the University of California at Irvine.  This does not mean that the 1,800 members of ACE, which is an advocacy group for colleges and universities, automatically will award any student credits for having taken the MOOCs, but the decision of ACE may make the process easier.  Although those offering MOOCs hope that their courses are as readily accepted as advanced placement courses are, universities are hesitant.  Problems include uneven course quality and integrity, and some universities are even backing away from advanced placement because studies show that students completing the courses do not have the same level of knowledge as those who take the equivalent course in the college classroom.  For more, see and

Text Books of the Future?    28 January 2013

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education considers the development of new types of text books, including those that are essentially complete digital courses. One of the issues discussed in the piece is whether some of these products will make professors obsolete. Read the article at

Try One MOOC Free Then Enroll!–Now Even Coming to UWF!   24 January 2013

NOTE: This article also appeared in the "What's New?" page in the first quarter of 2013 located here.
A number of universities, including the University of West Florida, will be attracting potential students with something novel: take one MOOC, with credits, free, and then enroll as a full-time student.  The free credits are attractive to students, and the head of Academic Partnerships, the company helping universities initiate its MOOC2Degree promotional program, claims that 72 to 84 percent of those students taking the MOOC (pronounced like a cow’s moo with a k at the end) will register for another course.

While many academics are skeptical about MOOCs, their advocates claim that such courses are every bit as valid as courses taught in the classroom.  Those involved in the MOOC2Degree program appeared to be ambivalent.  Elizabeth Poster, dean of the Arlington nursing college, admitted that “we can’t offer exactly the same resources, because it’s just not possible” in an article that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  That same article noted that Lawrence Johnson, the interim provost at the University of Cincinnati, an institution which also has joined the Academic Partnerships program, “expressed doubt that the university’s MOOC2Degree courses would be able to provide students with the same level of individual attention, even if the assessments and the professors were the same as those for a typical online course.”

The MOOC2Degree program will take a regular course the institution already offers and convert it into a MOOC that will teach massive numbers of students (some Stanford University MOOCs have enrolled around 10,000 students).  In addition to corralling new students, administrators are hoping that the MOOC2Degree idea will give them an idea of whether a student is good potential material for admission.  Furthermore, the program may weed out individuals who are not prepared to continue as full-time students, thereby reducing the dropout rate after admission, which results in a financial loss to universities, according to the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The article in The Chronicle of Higher Education is at  The website for MOOC2Degree is  A video of Randy Best and former Florida governor Jeb Bush promoting MOOCs for Academic Partnerships is at

MOOC Moguls and Advocates Adopt Student Bill of Rights    23 January 2013

A number of MOOC corporate heads and those involved with MOOCs have adopted a bill of rights for students enrolled in MOOCs and online courses that cover privacy issues, financial transparency questions, and such topics as students' "right to be teachers" in what they have titled a "Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age."  The document is available at and The Chronicle of Higher Education article on drafting the document is at
News and Commentary: Georgia State Offers Credits for MOOCs    23 January 2013
Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA, now will treat MOOCs as it does advanced placement or transfer credits, with departments being able to determine whether the knowledge a student gained from a MOOC is equivalent to that which students acquire in the courses the department offers.  Recently, San Jose State University announced an agreement with Udacity to accept their MOOC courses at one-third of the usual tuition cost (see the information on Udacity above).  For more details about Georgia State University's decision, see and

There is little or no difference for the professor lecturing to 20 students, 200 students, or 2,000 students.  The issue is whether a classroom of 20 provides the same experience as a MOOC class of 2,000 for the students.  In a small class setting, a question from one student or one question a professor addresses to the students can indicate to the professor that the students are not grasping the material or that they lack basic knowledge about a key concept or fact that the professor assumes they learned in a different course.  A small class enables professors to share a variety of materials, such as books, cultural artifacts, and models, with students.  One professor, even with the help of ten graduate assistants, can not grade 2,000 essays or papers in the same way he or she would grade those from a class of 20 students.  Evaluation in MOOCs, as a result, often rely exclusively on multiple choice exams.  Another alternative is peer grading, which is less valuable and more uneven than the grading efforts of one professor.

While MOOCs may be useful for students wishing to acquire a particular skill, refresh their knowledge of a subject, or explore a different discipline, they should not be a substitute for the classroom experience, and the number of such courses in a student's degree program should be limited.  One must consider why MOOCs are all the rage in postsecondary education today, a time when universities are under pressure from all quarters to function like businesses.  Politicians like them because they appear to offer solutions to the high cost of a college degree (this is not the place to consider why education is so expensive, including the problem of bloated administrations that is the subject of this study).  University administrators favor them because the number of adjunct professors and regular professors on the payroll can decrease while the numbers of students getting diplomas can increase.  Ultimately, even the number of classrooms and buildings can decrease.  The providers of MOOC courses extoll the virtues of their products because most are for-profit corporations.  Of course, the instructors who offer MOOC courses are enthusiastic because they want their classes to fill.  Students like them because MOOCs are convenient an students "can get the course over with" at little cost and move on toward getting a diploma.

Many of those educators who are skeptical of the MOOC experience and even online courses see a dangerous trend in postsecondary education that is creating a gap between those who can afford a traditional education and those who are left with an education experience intended for the masses.  The products of the traditional route will have the finest training in critical thinking and the best opportunities for employment and further education, while the bulk of graduates will be the technicians and a part of a massive labor force.  Most of these critics are not calling for an end to online and MOOC courses but warn of their abuse.

Given the pressure on educational institutions, especially those receiving state funding, to put "butts in seats," as the expression goes, more MOOCs and online courses likely will be the future for college students.  Those involved in the business of MOOCs even have drafted a bill of rights (see the article above) for students taking their courses--a document that once is reassuring, when it comes to privacy and pedagogical transparency matters, and of some concern, such as the extent to which MOOCs may be relying on "peer interaction" to replace instructor input in the grading process.  Until MOOCs and online courses become required or the only option, students have the opportunity to chose the method of delivery for the information they need.  Those who limit the number of MOOCs and online courses will get more out of their educational experience.  They will view such courses as filling a specific purpose and optimize the traditional classroom environment to help ensure they attain the high-quality degree they desire.  They will avoid succumbing to the notion that they need to get their degree as inexpensively and as quickly as possible so that they will be more competitive not only when they are seeking employment or admission to graduate or professional programs but also throughout their careers.

At the risk of sounding overly cynical, there is one bit of advice for students who are navigating through this expanding world of colleges and universities aspiring to be supermarkets of education that operate like businesses: "let the buyer beware."
Blackboard and Instructure Offer MOOCs    2 November 2012
Blackboard and Instructure are course-management companies that enable a number of universities to place various courses on line.  Now, the two firms are enabling universities offer MOOCs.  Read more at
NYU Dean Donating Time to University of the People    23 May 2012
Dalton Conley, a sociologist and dean at New York University, is donating part of his sabbatical to work on the development of the University of the People, which is an institution that offers free courses but charges a small amount for exams.  More information is at

Free Courses become Low-Cost College Credit
    23 May 2012

The Saylor Foundation and StraighterLine have teamed up to create online courses for college credit at very low costs.  Furthermore, George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College have been cooperating with the Saylor Foundation and Straighter Line to accept the courses into their programs.  For more information, see