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The Massive Classroom

University of Washington senior lecturer Matt McGarrity is teaching an online course on public speaking to tens of thousands of people around the world this summer. How’s he doing?

August 5, 2013 at 7:04 AM

Reporter: Online courses – learned more, more difficult than expected

Several other higher education reporters have taken a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and written about the experience, most recently Justin Pope of the Associated Press, who took a class through MIT on global poverty:

Wrote Pope: “I learned more than I expected, and worked harder than I expected.” He found that it takes real self discipline to make yourself keep up when you’re taking a free course that offers no real credit. I’d second that observation.

Pope noted that even the biggest MOOC backers think the courses may be most effective at supplementing, not replacing, traditional courses. I’ve had that same thought myself as I’ve worked through public speaking. Especially for people who struggle with public-speaking jitters, this course might serve as a kind of prerequisite, or introduction, that would give them some skills to draw on and make a “live” class less intimidating.

Pope’s economics course was graded on his answers to multiple-choice questions.

“I never went through the thought process of examining disparate evidence, weighing it, synthesizing and articulating an argument that to my mind should be part of any course,” Pope wrote. That should be part of any college course, he argued, and it’s why an education based on MOOCs would be incomplete.

Of course, this public speaking course is all about articulating ideas, at least for the purpose of making a speech — we’re not synthesizing material about public speaking, of course; we’re creating speeches from unrelated material. But the practice and peer review component of the public speaking course is what makes it unlike the other two MOOCs I’ve taken, and has made it more interesting and also more challenging.

Comments | More in Education, Higher education | Topics: MOOC, online courses

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