As the MOOC turns

Below is a collection of links to recent articles and essays on MOOCs. Think of this as a primer for those of us who have been too busy, you know, actually teaching, to keep up with the latest developments.

The Crisis in Higher Education — Nicholas Carr, MIT Technology Review — A fairly balanced review of what MOOCs are, including a concise version of the Sebastian Thrun-Coursera creation myth. The comparison of MOOCs to the creation of correspondence courses in the early part of the 20th century seems apt.

Napster, Udacity, and the Academy — Clay Shirky — The author, a disruptologist, surveys the higher education landscape and finds it ripe for, you guessed it, disruption. Likening courses to MP3s, and by extension, universities to record labels, he argues that it is only a matter of time before the reckoning happens.

Questioning Clay Shirky — Aaron Bady, Inside Higher Ed — Both a rhetorical and substantive critique of Shirky’s disruption argument, Bady points out the steep decline in states’ funding for higher education over the past 2 decades as a key factor in driving unmet educational need, opening the door for MOOCs and for-profit ‘universities.’

Providers of Free MOOC’s Now Charge Employers for Access to Student Data — Jeffrey Young, The Chronicle of Higher Education — This explains why so many venture capitalists are lining up to ‘invest in education.’ One way to monetize students is to sell access to them to the highest bidder. It’s Google AdWords for people!

The Great Decoupling of the American Economy — Andrew McAfee — While not directly addressing MOOCs, I was struck by the applicability of the idea of reducing the need for ‘labor’ (if you can call faculty that) with capital investment, which is essentially what MOOCs do. Decoupling scholarly pursuit from instruction, which is one logical outcome of the MOOC, would undoubtedly lead to a loss of academic scholarship. But increasing economic efficiency like this is supposed to lead to more free time to pursue one’s interests, which is the original definition of schola; this seems terribly ironic.Blackhat 2015 movie

 

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