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Dumbed-Down Math and Other Perils of Online College

26 Mar

Illustration by John Samels

By Norman Matloff

For the first time, state legislators in the U.S. may require their public universities to grant students credit for online courses given by outside providers.

A bill introduced in the California Senate would extend this concession only when a required class is full and not offered online at the college. The legislation, which is expected to be adopted in some form, has been hailed nationally as a leap for massive open online courses — MOOCs, for short.

Advocates pitch MOOCs as classes for the masses, enabling a resident of, say, the Gobi Desert to study nuclear physics. Those who oppose the spread of such an idealistic movement are dismissed as Luddites who wish to restrict higher education to a privileged few. But if altruism is the driver, why were two major purveyors of MOOCs, Coursera Inc. and Udacity Inc., established as for-profit companies? (A third new venture, edX, is a not-for-profit consortium.)

One can’t blame public officials for looking for cheaper modes of instruction. The ventures can also generate revenue for colleges that market their content to the online vendors.

[ Full article available at Bloomberg View blog: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-25/the-perils-of-an-online-university-education.html ]

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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in MOOCs in the News, Op-Ed

 

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