Dr. Ian Bogost, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology (but I know him best as the creator of Cow Clicker) has an article in the Atlantic about the flipped classroom trend. The flipped classroom, where students watch the lectures as homework and complete what would have been homework during class, has gained popularity by Massively Open Online Courseware like Coursera, Udacity and Khan Academy. He states that:
Perhaps surprisingly, a flipped classroom doesn’t fundamentally alter the nature of the experience… Both MOOCs and flipped classrooms still rely on the lecture as their principal building block. In a typical classroom students listen to lectures. In a flipped classroom, students still listen to lectures — they just do so as homework, edited down into pleasurably digestible chunks. The lecture is alive and well, it’s just been turned into a sitcom.
A week later he posted that while the flipped classroom idea isn’t all that new and it’s really the seminar format with high faculty-student interaction that provides the best learning atmosphere.
However Ian fails to address this point: the “sitcom” lectures on Coursera and Udacity are recorded by some of the top professors in their field, who are also great lecturers. I’ve used Udacity to supplement lectures for some professors who, despite impressive CVs, weren’t quit as gifted lecturers.
Imagine there is a contest to record the best lecture in a given subject (judged by whom, I’m not sure). With that lecture now recorded, it is now made available on the Internet. Then, instructors can focus on the interaction time during class and save the lectures for those who have a talent for lectures. Most professors don’t write their own textbook either; they use the definitive book on the subject (from MIT for east coast students and Standford for west coast ones). The MOOC is the interactive textbook.
The flipped classroom may not be new and MOOCs may not solve all our education problems, but I’d like to see the MOOC combined in a flipped classroom. The value of MOOC is the availability and while certainly there are certification issues to be worked out, if somebody puts the time into a MOOC they will have learned something. Seeing how the US is declining in education rankings, I can’t see how MOOCs are going to make that worse. If anything it’s time better spent than clicking a cow. :p