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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Millions enrolling in online courses by Tamar Lewin / The New York Times

 writes, "Teaching Introduction to Sociology is almost second nature to Princeton professor Mitchell Duneier: He has taught it 30 times, and a textbook he co-wrote is in its eighth edition."

Photo: The New York Times

But last summer, as he transformed the class into a free online course, he had to grapple with some brand-new questions: Where should he focus his gaze while a camera recorded the lectures? How could the 40,000 students who enrolled online share their ideas? And how would he know what they were learning?

In many ways, the arc of Mr. Duneier's evolution, from professor in a lecture hall to online instructor of tens of thousands, reflects a larger movement, one with the potential to transform higher education. Already, a handful of companies are offering elite college-level instruction -- once available only to a select few, on campus, at great cost -- free, to anyone with an Internet connection

To create a Princeton seminar's feel, Mr. Duneier used a video chat room in which six or eight students -- Dipendra was one, others were from Siberia or Iran as well as Princeton -- discussed the readings; students over the course of the week could replay the video and comment.

As with other MOOCs, less than 5 percent of those who enrolled in the sociology course finished it: 2,200 midterm exams and 1,283 final exams were submitted. Some students listened to all the lectures and did all the readings but didn't take exams. There was no reason to do so since Princeton -- unlike Udacity, edX or other universities working with Coursera -- does not give certificates of completion.

Related link
College of Future Could Be Come One, Come All (The New York Times)

Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette