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This blog was started as my reflections on the 2011 Change MOOC. It is now an on going journal of my thoughts on Higher Education, specifically teaching Biology.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Perceived Problems in MOOC (Part 2: Star Students)

Continuing my thoughts on the perceived problems in MOOCs as presented by David Youngberg's April 13, 2012 commentary in the Chronicle, I come to the second perceived problem: that the "star student can't shine."  WHAT?

What is a star student?  Is it the one that get's the A because they know how to take multiple choice tests?  Is it the student that has learned to cram and flush so effectively that in one night they can game the course content to get a good exam grade?  Is the student kisses up by always coming by your office to ask you a minor question (and really never gets around to asking about anything useful)?  Or is it the arch manipulator?  These are all negative stereotypes, but I've seen colleagues holding these people up as star students.  Once their in a challenging class (such as a course taught through case studies), they flounder and complain.

Both in online and face-to-face, I can spot the students that are trying.  I can spot the students that are giving it their all, even if they struggle through the whole course.  I've had students that I've said are some of the brightest and best, but they still only got a B out of my class.  Why?  Because they were great students.  They learned.  Even after years, they still remembered what they learned in my class.  They can still point to AHA moments (now in the dictionary) where they either learned something about the content or about themselves.  In my class they may not have been an A student, but they were a star student.  They were higher achieving than those that got the A.

The question is not can star students shine, but what do you consider a star student?  Ask yourself, have I given possibilities for students to shine?  How do I acknowledge a student's achievement?  The idea that a person can not shine in different media is ludicrous.  It makes me wonder if David Youngberg felt under appreciated in the Udacity course, and what he considers a star student. 

About being under appreciated, we all feel that way at some point or another, but do you participate in a MOOC or online course to feel appreciated?  When I participate in something like a MOOC  like #MOOCMOOC going on right now, I'm doing it to learn something, gain inspiration or build connections (networks).  What is strange, those students who shine for me, are the ones who are trying to learn the material in the course, those who struggle with concepts, ask good questions, and sit in my office near to tears because they don't understand something.  In short, those that are taking the challenge of the learning opportunities.