Mark's critical post on MOOCs and the comments there ( ) reminded me of "cargo cults" where people superficially and ritually do something without a true understanding of how, why or if it really works.  As Arthur C. Clarke said, any sufficiently advanced technology [or technique] is indistinguishable from magic.  Perhaps teaching and learning are still a bit of a magical/mystical process to the general public, and that may also lead to "cargo cult teaching" on the part of some instructors (and even cargo cult learning on the part of some students).  Not much actual learning happens in college, see the book Academically Adrift:

That is not to say that this is a bad thing - just a realist thing.  Many of our current teaching and learning strategies are not the most effective, and we should acknowledge that there are better strategies out there, known (by the best teachers and by educational researchers) and unknown (yet to be discovered/developed).  For example, this Calculus MOOC is probably the best designed MOOC so far:
But it is still almost entirely driven by lecture/video, even though we have decades of research on things like interactive simulations and graphing tools (MBL: microcomputer-based labs) which have shown to be more effective in helping students understand graphing and related math and science concepts:
So one challenge is to make web (or app) based simulations and labs that can scale to the size and needs of MOOCs.  Luckily groups like the Concord Consortium and PHET are working on this:

From "The term "cargo cult" has been used metaphorically to describe an attempt to recreate successful outcomes by replicating circumstances associated with those outcomes, although those circumstances are either unrelated to the causes of outcomes or insufficient to produce them by themselves. In the former case, this is an instance of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy."
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