Classroom lectures which are videotaped and placed online are an anachronism. They are an attempt to convert the online space into nothing more than a physical classroom. All the power of online to deliver imaginative and novel learning experience is wasted in having students sit passively in front of a computer watching a talking head as if they were watching a TV screen. Furthermore, there is nothing that is said in a lecture that cannot be much more quickly and efficiently read and understood in text form. If a professor is to be seen online, she or he should be in an interactive mode. The great value of online is interactivity. Screening lectures is a waste of that value.
Why then are MOOCs and other online offerings placing central reliance on video-taped lectures. We can only speculate, but there seem to be several reasons:
First, the builders of the courses lack online imagination. They are following the course of least resistance for them – projecting into the online world the old world of the physical classroom. If they had more experience of learning on the Internet, they’d not do this.
Second, the cheapest way to create an online course is to tape professors giving classroom lectures. This is because video is much less expensive to produce than engaging interactive online content. Third, broadcasting taped lectures to large numbers of students via online courses flatters the professors who are lecturing and helps get them to support the courses. It has nothing to do with the learning effectiveness of the courses.
Fourth, for all their rhetoric about enhancing learning, the lecture-mavens ignore research that shows that video material is most effective in on-line learning when it is brief. Traditional lectures are not brief. (See http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/04/fine-tuning-online-education/ )
In general, lecture-video courses are a cheap and ineffective method of online education.
A good online course keeps video segments to less than eight minutes. A really good online course does not use video lectures at all.