As last week’s posts indicated (here and here), friends and relatives on my personal Facebook page see me post quite a bit about MOOCs. I try to stay off of that topic on this blog (except on occasion) because there are other people who can speak more knowledgeably about it than me.
If you’re interested in learning more about MOOCs and their weaknesses, I recommend reading the following individuals:
Aaron Bady, who recently wrote, “I see a group of decision-makers who quite manifestly do not know what they are talking about and who barely try to disguise it, for whom ‘online’ is code word for privatization.” My observations of MOOCs align with those of Bady, a Ph.D. student at UCal Berkeley.
To me, saying that MOOCs represent the next step in higher education is like saying finger-painting represents the next step in the evolution of art. Perhaps students teaching themselves can produce art that’s good enough to hang on a wall in a Holiday Inn somewhere, but higher education is capable of so much better than what machines can do. Yet outside of Cathy Davidson, we never hear about how technology can make people better professors. Instead, the MOOC rhetoric is all about how once all the big, mean authoritarian proffies of the world go the way of the dodo we can all reach Nirvana together.
Bob Samuels, president of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers and a lecturer at UCLA, also writes extensively about higher education issues. For example, he recently made a great point: MOOCs are offered as the antidote to “large, impersonal lecture classes” in which students can’t gain access to their professors, yet, somehow, large, impersonal online classes are supposed to be the answer.
Finally, there’s Cathy N. Davidson, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University. Davidson recently offered four reasons why MOOCs are considered the panacea for higher education, even if she doesn’t agree with them:
Too many students worldwide want to go to college to be able to accommodate them all.
College in the U.S. costs too much.
Online education promises to be lucrative to for-profit institutions.
Our current educational system (kindergarten through professional school) is outmoded.
She added a fifth reason as well:
Far too many colleges and universities, desperate to close a gaping budgetary wound, are turning to MOOCs hoping they will magically solve the problem. They won’t. To date, they don’t come close to paying for themselves and have an appalling drop-out rate of something close to 90%, hardly a way of serving one’s students. Also, if saving money is the reason to invest in MOOCs, you are going to offer up a terrible education–definitely not the most innovative new possibilities for communal, peer learning that those of us associated with the digital media and learning movement are advocating.
Stay informed–MOOCs aren’t going away.