BBC News has reported the new term SPOC in Next Big Thing. We shall remind the short story.
Distant past: bricks-and-mortar universities.
For hundreds of years students learned in so-called bricks-and-mortar universities. The general scheme includes
(1) paying large tuition fees for
(2) access to real professors and also
(3) enjoying social life away from parents
(4) hopefully gaining a degree at the end.
However the Internet is changing the education.
Recent past: MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).
Many students have probably heard the term MOOC, see more details in the Wikipedia article. The term MOOC was coined in 2008 and first 3 real MOOCs appeared in September 2011. By September 2013 there were dozens of MOOC providers in different countries. Initially MOOCs didn’t have the same factors as the conventional universities:
(1) large tuition fees
(2) real professors
(3) any social life
Several MOOCs have started to offer
(1) discussions and chats with instructors
(2) assessments with identities verified
(3) a small charge for certificates.
The main drawback of MOOCs has been the low retention rate: about 8% of all enrolled students actually pass a final test.
Next Big Thing: SPOCs (Small Private Online Courses).
It seems that term SPOC has just been coined by BBC on 24th September 2013. There is no Wikipedia article on SPOCs yet: checked on 27th September 2013. So we shall briefly describe the key points of the BBC report.
(1) Harvard says that we are already in the “post-MOOC” era.
(2) Access to SPOCs will be restricted to dozens or hundreds.
(3) Proper guidance will be provided for the selected students.
(4) Students will be more rigorously assessed than in MOOCs.
We have started our SPOCs (distance courses for maths candidates to top UK universities) in September 2010, which was 1 year before any MOOCs appeared and 3 years before Harvard started to think about SPOCs. We hope that other SPOCs (will) have the same key values as our current courses for top students preparing for MAT papers, Oxbridge interviews, STEP exams:
(1) quick and detailed feedback on regular written homework
(2) training on many problems harder than past exam questions
(3) best tips and advice from our recent successful students
(4) interactive quizzes offering gradual hints when needed.
Actually, we feel rather happy that big players like Harvard are catching up. The flexibility of small start-ups is a great advantage in tech innovations.
Small mammals are now ruling the world, while huge dinosaurs were wiped out. Here is the powerful principle: the size does not matter, but the skills do!
- Riddle 7: which black area is larger in the picture in the top left corner
at the very beginning of this post: all small squares or two big squares?
- How to submit: to write your full answer, submit a comment.
- Hint: you may assume that each small black square has side 1.
- Warning: please mathematically justify your conclusion.
- Restriction: only the first correct answer will be rewarded.
- Prize: free 1-year access to one of our interactive web tutorials.
- Update: after Ariella’s attempt, the answer has been explained.
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