Most of these articles about MOOCs are not very good but this one is different. The author expresses some skepticism and hit the nail on the head when he says ...
But the first thing I learned? When it comes to Massive Open Online Courses, like those offered by Coursera, Udacity and edX, you can forget about the Socratic method.But that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to discuss the quality of these courses and how you might go about judging whether they are truly teaching the subject correctly.
The professor is, in most cases, out of students’ reach, only slightly more accessible than the pope or Thomas Pynchon.
Here's the problem. Too many people, like A. J. Jacobs, the author of today's article, assume that because the lecturer is famous or from a "top" school, the material must be accurate and up-to-date. As A. J. Jacobs puts it ...
On the other hand, how can I really complain? I’m getting Ivy League (or Ivy League equivalent) wisdom free....Students are not in a position to judge whether a professor is "knowledgeable" about the material being covered in a course. In the case of MOOCs, many students just assume that because the professor is from an Ivy League school then he/she knows how to teach an introductory course properly.
With the exception of a couple of clunkers — my plodding nutrition professor might want to drink more organic coffee before class — most of my MOOC teachers were impressive: knowledgeable, organized and well respected in their field.
That's a very bad assumption as I've shown when I examined the biochemistry material being taught in the MIT courses Where Are the Best University Teachers?. Same is true for the courses at the Khan Academy.
I'm currently in Boston at EB2013 where I'm hanging out with biochemistry and molecular biology teachers and textbook authors. Many of these experts are not household names but they are the experts in their field, which is teaching. If you really want accurate information about the fundamental principles and concepts in biochemistry and molecular biology then you should take the courses they teach. You'll get a far better education than if you listen to professors from big-name research intensive-universities.
The recent ENCODE publicity disaster is just one example of the fact that top-notch researchers don't necessarily understand the fundamentals of subjects that are just outside of their own area of expertise.
Let's try and put a stop to this myth that the best teachers are professors from Ivy League schools. There's very little evidence to support that myth, especially in fields that I'm familiar with: evolution, biochemistry, and molecular biology,