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Online courses, particularly massive open online courses (MOOC) are the current rage. I can see that having students going through the material presented at their own pace, whenever they have time, and to be able to "rewind" are valuable. But I think some form of one-on-one contact (even indirectly, through grading, commenting on the work, answering questions, etc) is required anyway.

So, the question is: What are experiences in this area? How much (or little) extra work (contact with students, grading, ...) is required? What part of that (if any) can be left to teaching assistants (or similar)?

Perhaps deeper: How does this compare to more traditional technologies, i.e. a good textbook (perhaps even one like Bogart's "Combinatorics through Guided Discovery") and self study, seasoned with questions or just browsing http://math.stackexchange.com?

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A year after this question was asked, the bloom is definitely off the MOOC rose. The primary finding is that the majority of people who finish one already possess a prior bachelor's degree; offering one to say, at-risk or remedial students has been a failure over and over again. Some links that you should consider:

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I would suggest a distinction: A MOOC really should be massive, that means some 1000 participants or even more. In this case your problems will be about server capacity and technical things. The work like answering questions will then be done by the community (like in this forum). This, however, always requires some people to be online in your forum. Blended learning including some online-elements can even work with small groups, but then you need much more personal effort.

The key point is students' motivation: In a large setting maybe 50% will drop-out but the rest will make it through forum activities. Getting answers immediately and helping people with your knowledge - this makes the difference to reading a book your library (which people can for a hundred years, but hardly anyone does). In a small setting you want everyone to keep up with your course and you will need the whole group for interpersonal exchange of their learning experience. Thus, you will have to invest much more, e.g. in weekly meetings. You then might rather look for "inverted classroom" / "flipped classroom" concepts.

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Honestly I feel like most MOOC fall short. Not necessarily that they must be bad, but the ones I've seen are.

I feel like the problem is that they're in a weird inbetween; too time consuming to be something fun, but not rigorous enough to get something from it. If you want to learn rigorous mathematics, you have to spend a lot of time and effort and it's something MOOCs just haven't been providing.

Also the average person I know interested in MOOCs are those who already are educated and interested. I think MOOCs are a great idea but there really isn't too much of a market for it.

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