How a MOOC can affect the classroom

1 minute read

Duke University evolutionary biologist Mohamed Noor reflects on the way that teaching a MOOC has changed his classroom teaching: “The classroom experience reimagined”. Noor began teaching a MOOC with Coursera last year: “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution”, in conjunction with a regular course he teaches to 400 undergraduates at Duke.

My tentative conclusion is that its worth it. The types of questions I get now are (almost) never about repeating something I just said, but more about placing the material into a broader context or tying it to other topics. I perceive much more higher-level thinking about the material, and I am able to have students grasp concepts with which I recall struggling even as a graduate student. The performance on most of the assessments has gone up. As one (slightly grouchy) student put it: Of course were doing better. Youre making us work more on the same material.
From this point, I'll feel that I'm cheating my students if I give a class that is purely passive and lecture-based. If all I did was lecture, then I would be delivering little or no more value to these students than what they could obtain from something to which they have easy accessthe evergrowing number of MOOCs.

My experience filming segments for my MOOC has been amazing so far, and I have to say the resulting videos are way better than a classroom lecture. With a classroom lecture I can’t possibly recreate the experience of being in the field, talking to experts about their work as they are doing it.

Professors are used to a role in which, in the classroom, they are the local experts on everything that they teach. Technology now makes it possible for a professor to be a local guide to global experts. I think that is a really positive change from the students’ perspective, but it is a different role than most professors have been playing.