The Big Idea That Can Revolutionize Higher Education: ‘MOOC’

Laura McKenna in The Atlantic reports on the MOOCness that is starting to sweep across higher education where she reviews Coursera and Edx, noting that they are similar to Khan Academy. They are looking at removing the need for human beings to moderate and grade discussions and assignments.

Multiple choice tests can be easily graded using technology, but essays, the most accepted form of assessment for the humanities and the social sciences, have proven to be trickier. It would be impossible to hire enough people to grade the essays for a class that served 20,000. At Coursera, three engineers worked for two months on creating a system similar to Amazon Mechanical Turk for peer evaluation. This program will launch in about a week. EdX will use essay-grading software.

Discussions are moderated by peers who “vote” good comments up on the discussion board. Bad comments and spam are pushed to the bottom of the discussion threads by voters.

After the videos are created, the assignments are written, and the initial kinks are ironed out, Koller expects that these courses should be self sustaining and run on auto-pilot.

The funding models for Coursera and Edx are both slightly different.

She neglected to mention the history of MOOCs which can be found at