In this episode, Roberts talks with the University of Chicago’s John Cochrane about his experience teaching a massive open online course, or MOOC.

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Questions are below the fold:

Check Your Knowledge:

1. Cochrane describes MOOCs as characterized by zero marginal cost and very large fixed costs. What does this mean? How does this distinguish MOOCs from traditional, face-to-face courses?

2. Roberts equates MOOCs with textbooks. What does he mean by this? To what extent is this an appropriate analogy?

3. Roberts asks Cochrane what he thinks the next step is for MOOCs. Cochrane argues MOOCs today are still “very much Web 1.0.” What does he think is necessary for MOOCs to get to the next level?

Going Deeper:

4. Toward the end of the interview, Cochrane says, “There’s a danger in discussing things like education, health care, to say everybody has to have the absolute best.” Why does he say this? To what extent do you agree?

5. Do you think MOOCs have greater potential to “disrupt” high school or college level education? Why?

6. Arnold Kling is skeptical of the potential of MOOCs. Where do he and Cochrane disagree?

7. Kling argues that MOOCs should try to re-create the experience of a single student learning one-on-one with a teacher. Cochrane suggests the flipped classroom (where students watch instructional videos before coming to class) tries to re-create that. Is Kling right? Is this the best way to think about improving on-line education?

Extra Credit:

8. As they are discussing how to assess students in a MOOC, Roberts poses a challenge: “The puzzle is: Why do lightbulbs last longer than they used to? Because a lot of people think, lightbulbs wear out because they want to sell you more lightbulbs. It’s a really bad answer.” Roberts suggests the right answer is easy to identify and that a single word would help him grade your answer. So what IS the right answer? What is that single word?