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Professor points out problems with MOOCs

WHILE many Chinese universities are following overseas institutions and offering "massive, open online courses" (MOOCs), Harvard University education expert Chris Dede said the problem with them was that many students would drop out of a course that meant only watching videos and lectures.

Speaking at Shanghai International Conference on Ubiquitous Learning at Shanghai Open University, Dede, a professor in learning technologies at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, said: "They are the old model in a new bottle."

He said the future of learning would be virtual worlds on mobile devices to complement classroom teaching.
Dede presented a game-like simulator for middle school students where they can play the role of scientists exploring a virtual pond and collecting data about the water and its plants and animals.

The students are later taken to a real pond where they  collect real data in the real world.

Dede said the simulator mode can suit anyone from primary students to adults. "Imagine there is a virtual mall or bank, and you can learn about business," he said.

Dede said his MOOCs represented multi-dimensional learning combining classroom learning, real world learning such as internships and apprenticeships, and community education.

"Even when there are a huge number of students, we need to think about how they can learn from each other and encourage them to be socially interactive," Dede said.

"In this aspect, existing MOOCs platforms are not a good learning guide," he said.


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