Dear Commons Community,
The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that the Georgia Institute of Technology and Coursera had to cancel a MOOC due to design and other technical difficulties. Fatimah Wirth, the instructor for the MOOC aptly named “Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application,” decided on Saturday to suspend the course because students were getting misleading emails and there were problems with students editing documents on Google Docs.
“One student reported that the first e-mail he got from the instructor “was not an introduction to the course per se, nor instructions for getting started, but rather an apology for the technical glitches that were, unbeknownst to me, already occurring.”
Ms. Wirth had tried to use Google Docs to help the course’s 40,000 enrolled students to organize themselves into groups. But that method soon became derailed when various authors began editing the documents. Things continued downhill from there; some students also had problems downloading certain course materials that had been added to the syllabus at the last minute. When the confusion continued, Georgia Tech decided to call a timeout.
The company on Sunday announced that it would reopen the course at an unspecified date. Richard A. DeMillo, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities, told The Chronicle he expected the course would be live again “in a matter of days.”
In the meantime, Coursera is dealing with the backlash against its first aborted MOOC since it began offering the massive courses early last year. This is the first time the company has suspended a course, said Daphne Koller, its co-founder, in an interview. “Given that we’ve launched well over 100 courses, I think that’s a pretty good track record,” she said.
There is still debate about whether MOOCs can replicate the educational experience of a traditional classroom, but in general the large-scale online courses have managed to avoid being panned outright.”