Kathleen Nicoll in Scientific American on MOOCs

Kathleen Nicoll was recently interviewed by Scientific American for a piece on massively on-line open courses (MOOCs). MOOCs, which are now offered by many universities for free, have garnered enrollments as high as hundreds of thousands worldwide! While the students interviewed in the article found MOOCs to be generally fun and rewarding, Kathleen offered a counterpoint after taking one on math from MIT. In general, she found watching a professor lecture through a series of videos to be a relatively passive form of learning. She believes that human interaction is fundamental to learning, and notes, “It's kind of like the difference between having a real friend and a Facebook friend.” Despite the rapid growth in MOOCs, they are plagued by very low completion rates because failure is free. However, many educational organizations are experimenting with this model so their future is an open question. At this point MOOCs are gathering many supporters and detractors, but the impact they’ll have on traditional “brick and mortar” universities remains to be seen. Kudos to Kathleen for chiming in on this debate at such a high level!


"Scientific American" article