Anderson has a provocative post discussing a recent study by Tomkin and Charlevoix (2014) reporting that MOOC course satisfaction, completion or decision to enroll in another MOOC had no relationship with teacher interaction or presence in the MOOC. This kind of thing always gets teachers' panties in a bunch, as we know. Anderson argues that these results are predicted by his "Interaction Equivalency Theory where one of the three forms of student interaction (student-student, student-teacher, student content) is at a high level, the other two can be reduced or even eliminated. " As an online prof, I would argue that to get the equivalency over to the student-student or student-content side of the triangle, the course and content have to be very artfully and intentionally designed by the teacher with a great investment of time and skill. So there's presence of interaction and there's presence by design. It's presence by design to structure social and content engagement that allows the more traditional 'teacher presence' to be missing. The exciting thing is that is has much leverage. As a side note, people shouldn't assume that these arguments are meant to throw teachers out of the classroom and make all classes instructorless. Humans are social animals and good teachers provide mentoring and social connection in ways far beyond course content that are difficult in the scale of a MOOC. These are important questions, however, as part of the quest to find ways of making quality education available to the millions who don't have the access to educational opportunities most of us take for granted.
Tomkin, J. H., & Charlevoix, D. (2014). Do professors matter?: using an a/b test to evaluate the impact of instructor involvement on MOOC student outcomes. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning@ scale conference. Retrieved from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2566245