U. of Zurich Says Professor Deleted MOOC to Raise Student Engagement (Chronicle)

July 8, 2014 by 
[Updated (7/8/2014, 2:53 p.m.) with news of a post on the controversy by the MOOC instructor.]

The University of Zurich says it has cleared up the bizarre case of the MOOC that went missing. But the university is offering few clarifying details to the public, which has been left to piece together theories from the university’s statements and from cryptic tweets by the course’s professor about an unspecified experiment he might have been trying to conduct.

As I reported this morning, the content of a massive open online course taught by one of the university’s lecturers, Paul-Olivier Dehaye, vanished last week without explanation, leaving an empty husk on Coursera’s platform. The course, “Teaching Goes Massive: New Skills Required,” was one week into its planned three-week run when the videos and other course materials disappeared. Coursera officials said Mr. Dehaye, a mathematician, deleted the materials on July 2, and the company has since restored them. But the company’s officials initially were as confused as everyone else.

Ulrich Straumann, a vice dean at the university, has since replied to an inquiry I sent on Monday to Mr. Dehaye’s email address. Mr. Straumann wrote:

“Professor Dehaye, instructor of the Coursera course “Massive Teaching – New Skills needed,” has deleted content during the course as part of his pedagogical concept in order to get more students actively engage in the course forum. In the course of the events, confused students contacted Coursera directly, as they assumed a technical problem [had been] the reason for the disappearing of course material. Unfortunately, Professor Dehaye had not previously informed Coursera of this part of his pedagocial approach: Deleting course material is not compatible with Coursera’s course concept, where students all over the globe decide when they want to watch a particular course video. Professor Dehaye’s course included experimental teaching aspects which led to further confusion among students. Coursera and the University of Zurich decided on Friday, July 3, to reinstall the course’s full content and paused editing privileges of the instructor until final clarification on the issue would be obtained.”

About Ryan C. Fowler

Ryan is a curricular fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C. He also teaches at Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster Theological Seminary.
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