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The pedagogical benefits of these characteristics of MOOCs translated into: the effectiveness of online learning, retrieval learning, mastery learning, enhanced learning through peer and self-assessment, enhanced attention and focus due to “chunking” content into small packages and finally peer assistance, or out-of-band learning.
When it comes to peer and self-assessment, there is general agreement that it is an effective means of marking. Assignments that are peer or self-assessed agree closely to those marked by instructors and tutors.
Overall, the evidence is that there is no reason to believe that MOOCs provide any less a valid learning experience than face-to-face courses. In many ways, they are simply a restatement of online learning environments which are optimised for large class sizes and modes of learning suited to todays digital milieu. When used for students enrolled in a university degree, they are usually combined with on-campus learning opportunities in a “flipped-classroom” style of presentation which brings the advantages of both environments.
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What is exciting about the MOOC environment is that it will provide a rich opportunity to gather data that will tell us what does and doesn’t work and how students learn most effectively in as engaging an environment as can be provided. This will almost certainly mean that the current MOOC format will evolve rapidly over time as it is driven by this research supported by real data.