More on MOOCs

Siva Vaidhyanathan on MOOCs, just to keep the discussion going.

If we support the MOOC experiment it would be foolish to do so without confronting the serious incentive problems MOOCs present to teachers, students, and institutions of higher education. These are not reasons to quit MOOCs. They are reasons to take them seriously and strive to maximize the rewards of MOOCs while curbing the perverse incentives.

We should offer MOOCs that aim for many levels of expertise and in many languages. We should not reward universities or faculty based on initial, inflated enrollment. We should question the “O” as in “open” because a flood of trolls is about to show up in MOOC discussions, threatening to ruin everyone’s best efforts. We should ask why universities are not hosting and launching their own homegrown MOOCs when the software is simple and the talent is all in-house. Why engage with private companies that have completely different missions and demands than universities do?

The piece as a whole reminds me of how difficult it is to have a conversation about teaching (or education more generally) that doesn’t immediately suck in all sorts of related problems (technological fundamentalism, corporatization, the adjunct problem, administrative bloat) that make universities today so complicated.

2 thoughts on “More on MOOCs

  1. I find it interesting that both this piece, and the Bob Samuels commentary linked to earlier, focus on what we might call the “internal” MOOC threat, that is, the attraction that MOOC publicity and revenues hold for administrators (and board of trustees chairpersons…) at “tier one” research universities.

    The Clay Shirky essay mostly addressed MOOCs as an external threat. But perhaps it is more appropriate to worry about the barbarians who are already inside the gates.

    (Or indeed, inside the throne room….)

  2. Yes, I think the greater threat is internal — administrators who don’t trust faculty (or understand faculty work) and don’t want to cede authority to the in-house experts, lest they tell them that pursuing MOOCs and other online ventures as cost-cutting or revenue generating ventures is the wrong-headed way to go. The dynamic, I suspect, is that perceived external threats (public & political pressures, for-profits, etc.) will provide the justification for all sorts of MOOC-frenzy internally. Better for faculty to be informed and involved and ahead of whatever’s ahead.

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