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other potential uses as well; for example, since the adap-
tive engine measures how long a student is spending on
an activity, an instructor or graduate student could theo-
retically jump in when a student is clearly confused.
Student reaction to the course has been highly positive,
especially with regard to the adaptive learning engine.
"People definitely like having a lot of exercises to do,"
Fowler said. In a subsequent Calculus 2 MOOC he taught,
"we tried to do everything in the Coursera quizzes, and
there were comments in the forum about people missing
having the [MOOCulus] exercises."
Fowler added that the course has led to some interesting
conversations on pedagogy. "Suddenly it's okay for people
to have a lot of teaching conversations that I wouldn't nec-
essarily have had before, and that's taught me a lot," he
said. Those conversations have included what makes an
effective classroom experience, what the ideal classroom
looks like and how to keep more students engaged and
simply doing more math.
Linda L. Briggs is a senior contributing editor for Campus
tery. Unlike a paper quiz, where each student, regardless of
level, gets the same number of questions, MOOCulus "keeps
on providing activities that are at the appropriate level," Evans
said, thus enticing students to do more problems.
But forum feedback from participants illustrated just how
challenging it is for an adaptive engine to serve just the
right amount of an exercise, at the right level, to each stu-
dent. Parameters in the adaptive back-end code some-
times served extremely difficult exercises, and too many of
them, Fowler said, discouraging some students. On the
other hand, some exercises may have been too easy, and
Fowler continues fine-tuning the adaptive engine.
Beyond adjusting the problem sets, the MOOCulus
engine also provides immediate, data-driven feedback on
the effectiveness of online instruction, pointed out Fowler
and Evans --- information that would take an impossible
number of years of teaching to gather otherwise. As stu-
dents answer questions, MOOCulus can collect vast
amounts of data on learning patterns. In just a 10-week
course, for instance, Fowler's students spent the equiva-
lent of 10 "person-years" solving problems in MOOCulus,
delivering 2 million correct answers. That data, in turn,
shows which questions are too easy or too hard, or which
might be better predictors of a student's overall perfor-
mance in the course. The data can then be used to create
better classes, questions, tests and instruction. There are
Since the course was first offered, it's been expanded
and is now available on Apple's iTunes U, Evans noted. The
self-paced model there allows students to move through
the course at their own speed.
A huge challenge in building the adaptivity of MOOCulus,
Fowler said, was accurately measuring student under-
standing. As a student works through a problem, hints are
available to him. The software weighs the hints used and
the amount of time taken to answer the question, as well
as the student's answer --- whether right or wrong --- to
determine which question to display next.
The MOOCulus software also collects participation data in
the background, and the level of understanding of the current
concept is displayed to the student on a color-coded prog-
ress bar that inches along from red to green, indicating mas-
CT SUMMER SPOTLIGHT
Next month at Campus Technology 2014 in Boston (July
28--31), Jonathan Haber, the researcher behind the Degree of
Freedom project, will present "Are MOOCs the Equivalent of
College Courses? Confessions From the Front Lines of
Massive Open Learning," recounting his experience earning
the equivalent of a four-year liberal arts degree in just 12
months using only MOOCs and other forms of free learning. For
more information, head to the CT 2014 site.
Up to Speed
Video: Students share their thoughts on MOOCulus
A 77-year-old MOOCulus student recounts his journey
Teenage twins talk about taking the Calculus One MOOC
Reflection on OSU MOOCs in 2013
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