Trends in Online Education

    Recently, the phenomenon of “torment” (MOOC), a massive open online course, has been heard . There are a lot of platforms for them.

    It is believed that MOOC is a new generation of books (with videos, interactive tasks and a social component) that are simultaneously “read” by tens of thousands of people. It is possible to compare “torments” with a classical education for a long time and argue about their effectiveness, but it is useful to perceive them as a completely different format, obviously with its pros and cons.

    Moreover, online education has a big conceptual difference from offline education - it is easier to measure. And everything that can be measured can be improved.

    In this post, I will share my personal thoughts about where online education is going with the example of MOOCs, including those based on a visit to the Coursera Partners' Conference , which took place 4 weeks ago in London.


    If you think that I missed something important, add in the comments. If you disagree with me about anything, this is wonderful, I will be glad to support a substantive discussion. Below I describe the trends quite broadly, so if I have interest, I can expand any of them deeper in a separate post with technical details. Separately, I note that as an instructor of the course at Coursera, I consider online education, including from teachers, not just students.


    To start, I will list the main international MOOC platforms (in order to broaden my horizons):
    • Commercial Coursera , a well-known pioneer
    • Harvard and MIT's nonprofit EdX , including their open edX open source engine , and Google’s announced (but not yet launched) edXs aggregator
    • commercial Udacity started in competition with Coursera, but took the path of cooperation with companies instead of universities, creating more applied courses
    • aimed at courses with a large social component NovoEd
    • Invas Canvas Network , known for its Canvas Learning Management System
    • English FutureLearn from Open University, adhere to the mobile first approach
    • European iversity whose exit strategy is for sale Coursera
    • and many others...

    2 weeks ago, a good comparison of Coursera, edX and NovoEd came out in terms of teacher and university. Coursera has more users than all other platforms combined, which is often the decisive choice.

    Further I will talk mainly about Coursera, because they are pioneers in many areas, while the rest of the platforms follow in their footsteps. Although each platform has its own differences and nice features ...

    Readers may also be interested in looking at the Open edX Public Product Roadmap . Unfortunately, Coursera Product Roadmap is not available to the general public.


    Data and analytics

    MOOC platforms collect data on the behavior and success of students, but so far these data are practically not applied or interpreted. Daphne Koller (co-founder of Coursera) back in 2012 told TED that the data was about to make a revolution in education, "and things are still there." The main difficulty is that education is very different, and there is no clear metric that needs to be optimized. At the conference, Coursera introduced a new data panel for course teachers, which is much better than the previously available raw data upload, but still far from ideal.

    The scientific direction Educational Data Mining previously used the results of exams and sociological surveys of schoolchildren / students / teachers, and therefore was quite boring. Now scientists are literally drowning in these "torments." Their analysis leads us to a better understanding of how people learn. Probably, in the future we will observe the process of improving the quality of online education in the same way as we have observed the process of improving the quality of search on the Internet over the past 15 years. I personally believe that at some point in some areas online education will become more effective than offline education. But this is a separate topic for holivar ...

    By the way, one of the main purposes of the edX project, according to the creators, is to develop pedagogical research. Anonymous edX student data is shared between all partner universities so that each university can conduct independent research on this topic. And they lead. The screenshot above is from the UC Berkeley graduate student project for edX.


    Groups of courses related by a common theme and dates. Something between a classic long-term education and short online courses. They increase motivation, as the ultimate goal of learning becomes clear. Better monetized than single courses.

    Blended learning

    Universities are starting to apply their online courses to their students in the SPOC format (small private online course). We did it too. Usually this is combined with practical exercises and projects offline, while students pass online lectures and tasks with automated verification.

    In addition to SPOC, the concepts of blended learning, flipped classroom, hybrid learning are used, although they often mean the same thing. But formally, the term SPOC refers only to the online component in blended learning. The main difference from webinars - SPOC, as well as MOOC, can be scaled (more students, restart each semester) without additional time and effort on the part of the teacher.

    Also, last year, Coursera launched the Learning Hubs program., stimulating the creation of independent offline sites for student meetings and discussions of online course materials.

    Application platform

    Perhaps this is the most interesting point for the habrasociety. Since Coursera is rapidly increasing the number of courses and partners, their development team simply does not have time to implement everything that may be useful to teachers. Examples: an interactive designer of integrated circuits, an online code interpreter, visualization of processes in a cell, bioinformatics problems. Therefore, Coursera plans to create a platform for applications in which developers can add applications, and teachers connect them to their courses.

    Coursera announced the App Platform at last year's Coursera Partners' Conference, but only in March the first information was published . From available now:

    • OAuth2-based APIs - API for the Coursera platform. So far, only viewing the profile and the list of user courses is open, but gradually other functionality will be added. The same API uses Coursera in its mobile applications on iOS and Android.
    • Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) Integration is a protocol for embedding external educational plugins in Coursera courses. We use this protocol to integrate Stepic with courses on Coursera, for example in the recently launched Core Concepts in Data Analysis course . The protocol allows you to authenticate users with kurser accounts and transfer back their points for completed tasks. I will talk about the technical details (and rake) of integration in one of the following posts. LTI is an independent standard, which is why it is also supported by Open edX, Canvas, and others.
    • The Catalog API is a complete catalog of courses that you can rob and use in your aggregators / search engines for courses.
    • Shibboleth / SAMLv2 - a method of authorization on Coursera on university accounts. Shibboleth is widely used in American universities, for example, at the University of California, but is little known and practically useless in Russia.

    Behind the scenes

    Important topics such as:
    • formal certification
    • user motivation and gamification
    • social component of courses, communication with the teacher and the community, peer review
    • mobile devices (example: in Africa they visit Coursera mobile app more, but there is no forum there)
    • localization and translation of courses, intercultural interaction within the framework of the course
    • intellectual property (who owns the course and user data, licensing of courses)
    • privacy and data protection
    • monetization and sustainable business models


    Twitter hashtag # coursera14 still remembers some facts from the conference .

    For those interested in the scientific side of the issue, 293-page works (heavy pdf) of the EMOOCs 2014 conference , held in February in Switzerland, are available. Coursera Partners' Conference materials are currently not available.

    If you read up to this line, and you still like it, then three days later (May 1-3), we with JetBrains and Edutainme will conduct a hackathon in St. Petersburg to develop tools in education , where it will be possible, with the like-minded people, to bring education for the better, Come. I will be there all the days and can help with advice, as well as discuss the prospects of online education for pizza.

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