Educational Models: Massively Open Online Courses

I’ve been managing the Hacker Highschool v.2 project for over a year now, and it’s become nearly an (unpaid) full-time job driven, to some degree, by altruism. The requests we at ISECOM (the creator of Hacker Highschool) are fielding include online courses, teacher training and certification, online communities for both students and teachers, answer keys for the exercises and a whole lot more.

All this has us thinking about the learning styles of both adults and teens. Many of my friends are teachers at UNM, CNM and other institutions, and several of them have led “hybrid” courses that include both time in class and time online with the class community. We’ve all taught the traditional in-classroom courses, and some of us have developed e-learning materials that students use on their own.

What would you think works best? In-class, followed by hybrid, followed by solo e-learning, right?


The hybrid classes are substantially better for younger learners. That makes this model attractive for Hacker Highschool, but perhaps less so for trainings that involve older learners.

How about duration models? Is the weekend “boot camp” less effective than a class that meets 12 hours a week for three weeks? Is a semester-long, three-hours-per-week traditional 16-week class even better? I wish I could tell you, but the evidence is all over the map. Many of my colleagues are leery, though, of the boot camp format, simply because people can’t do intensive learning eight hoursĀ  a day.

So what about MOOCs, massively open online courses? “Free education for everybody” sounds nice, but students and cultures are so extremely diverse that it’s hard to imagine, much less construct, courses that work for “everybody.”

Consider this article, “A MOOC Delusion: Why Visions to Educate the World Are Absurd”. Ghanashyam Sharma, an assistant professor in writing and rhetoric at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, argues that “No matter how much hype is generated or money is invested in accessing learners worldwide, the ‘massive’ component and the lack of student-teacher interaction will continue to plague this mode of online education for non-American learners.”