I have struggled for months to pinpoint the crux of the problem, and as is usually the case, I have concluded it has little or nothing to do with technology. Bad online instruction has the same problem as bad traditional instruction: a serious lack of attention to molecular engagement with the student learner.
I heartily agree. Instruction is hard. Taking mediocre instruction and putting it online to reach exponentially more people doesn’t make it better. People who provide instruction in an online environment will need the skills to do that well for these MOOCs to be useful and sustainable (in my opinion at least!). That is all.