Southampton to run one of first FutureLearn Moocs

One of the first Moocs on the FutureLearn platform will be a University of Southampton web science course beginning on November 11, it has emerged

September 7, 2013

Source: The Web Science Trust

Although Southampton offers both a master’s and an undergraduate degree in web science, its massive open online course will not be a direct port of an existing module. Rather, it will be a “mini” course, designed to offer a taster of what students might experience were they to take a paid course at the university.

“It’s an introduction to web science – I think it could be studied by anyone who is interested in studying web science at master’s or undergraduate level,” said Dame Wendy Hall, professor of computer science at Southampton, who has already recorded some videos that will form part of the Mooc.

“I am not lecturing, but giving an introduction, some commentary, scene setting, and inspiration. We see Moocs as primers, or tasters, at the moment. Not recreations of the full modules as you might do at Southampton.

“They are definitely courses because there’s a series of lectures, and assessment at the end. But will the depth be the same as you’d get if you attended the university? No, not yet.”

Times Higher Education revealed in June that FutureLearn was looking to develop the pedagogy of its courses around a “mini-Mooc” model. Southampton is also expected to launch an oceanography Mooc via FutureLearn when details of the first courses are unveiled later this month.

Dame Wendy was speaking to THE ahead of the Association for Learning Technology conference, known as Alt-C, which takes place in Nottingham from the 10 to 12 September.

In her keynote address to conference, titled “What a Difference a Web Makes”, she is expected to look back over 20 years of technological developments in education, and ask why they have failed to fundamentally change the way higher education operates.

“We haven’t found a better way to educate people than an expert in the subject managing the process,” Dame Wendy, who is a founder member of the ALT, said.

“It’s still the old Socrates model. Where Moocs might change things, make things more exciting and interdisciplinary, is if students do the learning on Moocs, while the physical tutoring covers tutorials and personalised assistance to help people through the hard bits.”

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

I'm confused! Dame Wendy says that we "haven’t found a better way to educate people than an expert in the subject managing the process”, but she then goes on to say that it's "still the old Socrates model". I'm no authority on Socrates, but my understanding is that Socrates spent his time engaged in discussion with people who thought that they were experts (or at least claimed to have knowledge about certain subjects or concepts) and ended up undermining the certainty of their knowledge. Whatever Socrates was, he would never have claimed to have been an expert from whom one could gain knowledge - anyone entering into a 'learning experience' with Socrates would end up knowing less, but being considerably wiser for the encounter, as they would have fewer false beliefs and false certainties. Socratic education has nothing to do with learning at the feet of the master, rather it is a process of learning through dialogue, discussion, enquiry, investigation and participation. Personally, I feel that education has gone downhill since Socrates died in 399 BCE, and the point is that education is not now "the same old Socrates model", and has not been for a couple of millennia or so - but it would be much better if it was! And what would Socrates have thought of MOOCs? He may have liked cMOOCs, but would probably been somewhat sceptical of xMOOCs.
I'm with Wendy Hall on this one; the Socratic model still is (or, at least, should be) at the heart of university teaching. Training and education are not the same thing, and students' assumptions are most effectively challenged by experts at the cutting edge of their discipline (the best of whom, like Socrates, have a pretty good idea of what they don't know). It's true that changes to the University system over the past few years have made it increasingly difficult to sit down and talk to our students one-to-one; but this is the one thing which prevents universities from becoming conveyor belts for market-ready employees ...

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