As we wrote recently, Coursera’s suspension earlier this month was due to the need for better control and monitoring of the process, as well as demands for greater flexibility from the faculty. The latest setback Who’s vs whose only further highlighted the gap between the desired and the actual situation: between how professors want to conduct online classes and how they can do it now.
In several of his open appeals to students (the appeals themselves are quite lengthy), Mackenzie explained his attitude towards the course and its academic standards. The professors, he said, were struck by the fact that many students do not want to buy the literature recommended for self-study, and the quality of Coursera educational videos leaves much to be desired.
Of the 37,000 students, only 2 percent are entering the discussion.
And even more, according to Mackenzie, he was struck from the very beginning by the fact that out of 37,000 participants in the Microeconomics for Managers course, most of the 2nd grade math games students were not at all interested in the learning process. In the first two weeks, less than 40 percent of the students enrolled in the online system, and the only video lecture was viewed by only 25 percent. Less than two percent of students were actively involved in the discussions,” Mackenzie added.
“I was surprised at the large number of comments to my messages. However, I continue to be concerned that the importance and necessity of the course for serious and active students has been overshadowed by an army of students who are not involved in the learning process or interested in it,” the professor wrote back in January. “I want to motivate inactive and uninvolved students to take the program and take it more seriously. If I fail to do so, I would rather study with serious and active students than with inactive and uninterested students, as I think it is better to drop out of the course right now.
Judging by Dean Matkin’s reaction and Irvine Business School’s decision to continue online classes with other faculty, this was the reason for the conflict between Mackenzie and the Coursera project management. It is also worth considering that teachers who are used to working with a smaller audience and with students with approximately the same level of motivation and need for knowledge may feel uncomfortable as teachers of such large-scale projects as MOOC courses. While a “virtual classroom” may “accommodate” a huge number of students, they all have different responsibilities. Teachers like Mackenzie (and his supporters both within the project and outside it) can successfully teach only those who want to study and are interested in the course subject.
At the same time, MOOC online course instructors are required to be able to ensure that all students receive the knowledge they need, regardless of their commitment or interest. Surprisingly different: Mackenzie was not prepared to take the reality adequately. Given that he had already been involved in teaching distance learning at MOOC, it is not clear why the conflict situation was a surprise to the professor. Nevertheless, Coursera’s management had a reason to think about better teacher selection and training for online courses.