Much of the hype surrounding MOOCS has faded and as Steve Kolowich shows in a recent Chronicle piece, “Few people would now be willing to argue that massive open online courses are the future of higher education.” As the Babson Survey Research Group (that Kolowich cites) shows, higher ed leaders are less certain that MOOCs “are a sustainable way to offer courses,” that “self-directed learning” will have an important impact on higher ed, or that “MOOCs are important for institutions to learn about online pedagogy.”
At Ithaka S+R we have been researching MOOCs from a different angle. Last year we published results from a large scale study embedding MOOCs in 14 campus-based courses across the University System of Maryland. Our findings were rather mixed: students had the same outcomes in hybrid courses using MOOCs as those in traditionally-taught sections of the same courses, even though these were newly redesigned courses using new technology and had about a third less class time. As in our previous study with the Online Learning Initiative, we saw no evidence of harm to any subgroups of students, such as those from first generation or low income families. Instructors were very positive about their experiences working with MOOCs and identified numerous benefits both for themselves and for their students.