Monday, May 12, 2014

Open letter to a MOOC doubter about ModPo


​Dear Professor MOOC doubter:
     I was one of the 30,000 students enrolled in ModPo, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, via Coursera, hosted at Penn.  I am a living witness that there is human interaction in a large MOOC course, and there is one-on-one contact and individual attention between the student and the instructor and staff.    
     In ModPo, it was not unusual for Prof. Filreis to plug himself into a discussion group or even to send a personal e-mail to students in far-flung locations.  Many can attest to that, and to the fact that it seemed that Prof Filreis never slept during the course!  He was everywhere and in everybody’s conversations and discussions.  Additionally, his seven teaching assistants were equally engaged with students via the discussion groups.  And in the second year, he designated 25 community TA’s, in the US, in the UK, in India, in France, and in Phillippines, (and others) and they multiplied the interaction effect.    
     In weekly live webcasts, many of us met up in Philadelphia (a small contingent always travelled up by MegaBus (cheap tickets)) for face-to-face discussions.    
     In DC, we formed a weekly meet-up at a local bookshop for additional face-to-face discussions.
     So you see, there was lots of individual attention for those who sought it out, as well as for those sought out by the instructor and his staff.  But you have to do the work, both students and the instructor and staff.  Doing the work is what makes the difference, not the structure or the size of the classroom.    
     Thanks for reading this note.    
Raymond Maxwell

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