Unlike his residential course on the same topic, Professor Hare is attempting to engage more than 46,000 enrolled students, and understands that the goals of this MOOC are quite different than that of its residential counterpart. Hare is not attempting to parallel the residential experience; engaging one-on-one with every student on the discussion boards as one would in a classroom would be an impossible task. Instead of answering each individual question, Hare will be relying heavily on MITx’s pinning feature, which will allow his TAs to select threads of discussion to “pin” to the top of the board for first-glancers, in order to shape what students will engage with, and what material is made salient.
Like other MITx professors, Hare has taken a non-standard approach to his course construction. The 24.00x videos range from in-studio shots complete with images and diagrams overlayed on spoken content, to filmed lectures that capture both Hare himself speaking and his students dialoguing about the questions he probes them with–all interlaced with spots of British humor. The live lectures provide an undeniable energy, but Hare went further, shooting many of his studio lectures talking directly to the camera, in the hopes of creating an even more inclusive feeling for his audience:
“I like watching theatre, but I hate watching videos of theatre, and it’s something about that the actors are talking to the audience and you’re just a third party looking in. And it’s just lame! If I ran the whole course like that, the thousands of people looking online, they would feel excluded. So I wanted to do it a different way.”
Though a humanities course, Hare’s content embraces the MIT “problem-focused” approach to learning. Although his students do read historical texts, the course content is not focused on the history of philosophy. Hare strives to solve what he calls “live problems,” and reframe the content in a modern way, showing his students the relevance of the ideas and philosophies in the present day.
In its present state, Hare feels that 24.00x is a best effort, although improvements could be made in one respect. Its residential counterpart includes essay writing as the primary form of evaluation whereas the “x” platform currently offers only multiple choice problems, which can assess only reading/listening comprehension and basic logical reasoning skills, but not the ability to frame an argument oneself. A different model that has been discussed by Hare and MIT Professor Ike Chuang would give students the advantage of not just constructing arguments, but evaluating them first-hand:
Each student is asked to write a paper, and then given a tutorial on how to grade and assess papers (involving evaluation along several dimensions), and asked to evaluate 5 of their peers’ papers according to the rubric. One of those 5 papers (the student doesn’t know which) has been evaluated by an instructor-level grader as a “test paper.” The student then gets an assessment score that factors into their grade, that relates proximally the instructor’s assessment with the grader’s own. The scores given by the student to the other four papers then are weighted according to their assessment score of that test paper.
The above model would continue to fit within the automative measures the current edX platform requires. Hare also suggests that it may be feasible to expand beyond automated evaluation to include larger-scale essay grading by instructors. On the subject of resources, Hare remains optimistic that a larger pool of qualified graders exists, comprised of people who would already be happy to give feedback within their field.
Evaluative constraints aside, Hare is highly aware of the positive impact this course could have on his more than 46K enrolled learners around the globe. Access to higher ed may be limited, but the world of MOOCs will soon make Internet access the only barrier to entry for a learning analytic philosophy. “I don’t think we should measure success by how many people complete the course,” as many learners may not have time to commit to the course in its entirety. ”If people drop out after 5 lectures, that’s still hours and hours of philosophy that people have seen.”
The problems of 24.00x are complex, though Hare believes that in learning to solve them, students will gain life skills:
“There are so many books to pick up, and they’re so esoteric. It’s nice to be able to present things in a really structured rigorous way. I think it’s a really emancipatory thing. I think reasoning is highly connected with autonomy. People who think independently are freer than people who can’t. I hope I’m helping people gain more autonomy.”
By Jan Marie Olowina