Why is MIT ignoring 25 years of research into online learning and 100 years research into how students learn in its design of online courses?
This blogpost is a detailed account by Tony Bates of why he thinks this is the case and what the implications of this observation are for educational research and instructional design. He first discusses four presentations that were given at MIT's recent LINC 2013 (Learning International Networks Consortium) conference. These presentations (by MIT's Sanjay Sarma, Sir John Daniel, edX's Anant Agarwal and Tony Bates) each cover a different point from which to view online learning, specifically MOOCs. Tony Bates then goes on to focus on how MIT in particular approaches online teaching with its edX platform. As indicated, he is rather disappointed with it, as MIT seem to ignore previous and often excellent past educational research. To single out two of his comments: For its MOOCs MIT uses lecture capturing as its main technology, this fits in with their behaviourist approach to teaching. 25 years of research at open universities, spearheaded by the Open University in the UK, has not only revealed the limited effectiveness of such an approach, it also has come up with a wealth of alternatives. In spite of what MIT seems to think, these can reenact the richness of informal communications that MIT claims their campus-based teaching (and the corridors and coffee corners in its buildings, I would add) offers.
This observation of the state of affairs of educational research at MIT is all the more interesting as it is my impression (see my blogpost on this: http://tiny.cc/tj3bzw) that Harvard, MIT's founding partner institution in edX, takes a much more sophisticated approach to the role educational research could and should play. To them, edX is a means to carry out such research and they are aware of what insights educational research has already brought us. Nevertheless, the lack of impact of educational research could not be a matter of lack of knowledge, but a lack of status of instructional designers (as Tony Bates suggests may be the case at MIT) (@pbsloep)