In less than a month, Coursera’s online courses 2nd grade math games have stumbled upon a stumbling block twice. Last weekend, a professor who taught a ten-week course on “Microeconomics for Managers” as part of the University of California Irvine program told students that he was leaving the project after only five weeks (half of his term).
“We never reached a consensus on how best to run the classes, and unfortunately I had to leave,” UCLA Business School Professor Irwin said in an open address to the students. And while Richard Mackenzie will no longer distance-educate students, the professor said the classes will continue, but will be led by project managers, including the UCLA’s Deputy Dean for Distance Learning.
This event came just two weeks after Coursera’s previous suspension of online classes. Ironically, the course was called… “How to conduct online classes”. The reason for this who’s vs whose was numerous complaints from students about unforeseen technical problems and design problems.
Immediately after the departure of the teacher, the situation was not commented on by either the heads of Coursera or Mackenzie himself. But according to Chronicle of Higher Education, Coursera representatives reported that the professor had not been “removed” from his position, and the “disagreement” he mentioned in his statement with the startup managers was not directly related to Coursera.
The professor is not used to a large and diverse audience.
Gary Matkin, Dean of Distance Learning at the University of California, noted that Mackenzie simply couldn’t find an approach to the most optional students, who undoubtedly represented a very solid contingent of 37,000 students.
“Professor Mackenzie is not in the habit (like many others) of giving university level teaching materials to such a large audience, which consists of a wide variety of students, including those who are not very serious about learning. Or those who did not realize the benefits of additional theoretical knowledge. Or they’re having trouble learning,” Gary Matkin told the GigaOM education blog.
Last year’s MOOCs courses advanced successfully, with management attracting millions of dollars in investment and thousands of students interested in distance learning. But two recent incidents with Coursera show that while the learning model has great potential to engage millions of people online, it is still new and limited.