Innovation cheerleaders and flat-worlders like Thomas Friedman and Clay Shirky are very excited, for they have seen the future of academe, and it consists of MOOCs. They happily envision open and affordable online access to dynamic, learned professors—the kind once available only to students paying tens of thousands of dollars in tuition at places like Harvard and Stanford. MOOCs will democratize education, they say, creating a more equal and consumer-friendly world.
Faculty members, meanwhile, watch these developments with nervousness and fear. In the rapidly rising popularity of MOOCs, they see the beginning of the end of higher education as they have known it.
Yet, far from a radical innovation, MOOCs are simply the natural extension of trends that have been at the heart of the modern university for decades. Defenders of the status quo are reminiscent of Casablanca’s Captain Renault, who is “shocked, shocked” to discover an activity in which he himself partook. In April, the philosophy department at San Jose State University published an open letter bashing the use of Michael Sandel’s MOOC, “Justice.” Those professors compared the situation to “something out of a dystopian novel.” (“Departments across the country possess unique specializations and character, and should stay that way,” they wrote.)
[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/Were-All-to-Blame-for-MOOCs/139519/ ]