boards of a SPOC when my campus students were
going through the SPOC as well. See the Boots-on-the-Ground Campus Instructors for Open Self-Paced
Courses article (Fisher 2015) and follow-up and predecessors post to that (Fisher 2014; Fisher 2014a). In
short, I can play the role of a “boots-on-the-ground”
instructor in a SPOC created by someone else.
A criticism of MOOCs/HCOCs is that they do not offer
qualified feedback on challenging assignments. Do
you see a way to resolve this issue?
Douglas Fisher: There is considerable research on
grading open-ended assessments, such as essays at
scale (look at the Learning@Scale conference), but to
this I would add MOOCs can produce TAs at scale
(students who have gone through a sequence of
MOOCs may return to grade for the initial course in
the sequence) for incentives that may be nontraditional or traditional forms of compensation (Fisher
2015a). By increasing the numbers of qualified TAs,
one can increase the quality of feedback on assignments. Most likely, however, improving feedback will
be through human TAs at scale, interacting with
intelligent computational methods, like clustering of
student answers. I think it’s often the case that
humans and AIs beat either alone.
Have you had issues with academic integrity when
offering your course as a MOOC/HCOC? How have
you mitigated concerns of academic integrity?
Douglas Fisher: The students themselves are
remarkably good at holding each other accountable,
or so it seems (Fisher 2015b). I also worry about the
implications for instructors (Fisher 2014b) — in a
public-facing course the implications of not citing
another instructor’s educational material are higher
How is learning different with MOOCs or HCOCs versus traditional classrooms?
Douglas Fisher: Whether there is a cohort or not
seems critical in the ability and motivation of students to move through a SPOC — this is where campus cohorts of students and instructors can help —
we can be the cohort that an insulated, languishing
SPOC learner needs.
Where do you see the future of MOOCs/HCOCs? Are
they here to stay? What will be their likely target audience?
Douglas Fisher: My primary interest is in blended
learning models, where I use SPOCs to support campus courses and my campus students and TAs help
the campus-unaffiliated SPOC students.
How can MOOC or HCOC be blended with a brick-and-mortar class? For example, could a MOOC be used
effectively to build prerequisite background, or give
extra practice for students? Will such a blend increase
or decrease participation in the brick-and-mortar
class? Will such a blend improve overall performance
of the brick-and-mortar class?
Douglas Fisher: I think of a SPOC as a multimedia
textbook (with caveats [Fisher 2013]), where the lecture and assessment materials help me “flip my classroom.” But I have also long suggested MOOCs to satisfy prerequisites or otherwise get up to speed over
summer in advance of taking the campus version or
for independent studies. Recruiting great TAs from
MOOCs for my campus course is another possibility
that intrigues me (Fisher 2013a).
What are the top three technology capabilities that
would significantly improve the MOOC / HCOC professor / student experience and outcome?
Douglas Fisher: A CRA/CCC report that I coauthored gets at much of this (see Fisher and Fox
), but the one that excites me most are course-management platforms that allow me, as an instructor, to “flip a switch” that opens aspects of my campus course (for example, syllabus, videos,
auto-graders, discussion forum) to a variety of out-side-of-class communities, ranging from the larger
Vanderbilt community, to possibly include alums, to
Nashville, and the world. Such platforms, still only
imagined, would allow communities to overlap on
the materials that they can access and the services
that they receive, while both protecting campus students from public scrutiny to the degree that they
desired, and exposing campus students to alum,
regional, professional, and international perspectives.
1. See the article by Goodman, Melkers, and Pallais (2016)
for more information on online delivery and increased
access to education.
2. Fisher did not respond to question 6.
Bruff, D. O.; Fisher, D. H.; McEwen, K. E.; and Smith, B. E.
2013. Wrapping a MOOC: Student Perceptions of an Exper-
iment in Blended Learning. MERLOT Journal of Online Learn-
ing and Teaching 9( 2) June 2013.
Carey, K. 2016. An Online Education Breakthrough? A Master’s Degree for a Mere $7,000. The Upshot Column, The
New York Times, September 28, 2016. ( www.nytimes.com/
Fisher, D. H. 2013. A MOOC is NOT a Textbook. Cloud and
Campus Blog Spot. Nashville, TN: D. H. Fisher. (cloudand-