By Cathy Davidson
There are so many myths out there about MOOCs that I decided to teach one in Winter/Spring 2014. I’ve been an advocate of open, peer-to-peer learning for a long time but MOOCs are not open, not peer-to-peer. So that’s why I’m teaching one, because my knee jerk response is critical… and I am always self-critical of my knee-jerk responses. So we’re doing this MOOC and documenting everything: all the questions we ask, answers we have and don’t have, all our time, all our expenditures, everyone who is helping us, everything. I want to be informed before I pronounce (imagine that!) and will try to communicate what I learn as I learn. I’m hoping in the process that I’ll learn not only about the mechanics, costs, possibilities, and limits of MOOCs but also gain some interesting insights about learning and teaching that I might also pass on.
The current version of the MOOC that is commanding public attention (as in the Coursera version I will be teaching) is a commercial, for-profit, hierarchical, online set of courses that students can take for free and without prerequisites so they often draw in massive numbers (hence the acronym: Massive Online Open Courseware). I share all the fears of so many colleagues about whether or not these corporate or even nonprofit (but heavily VC funded) MOOCs, emanating from Stanford, Harvard, and MIT and private corporations like Google, will further erode the already desperate state of underfunded public education in America. Will professors at underfunded state universities and small liberal arts colleges all be replaced by a few dozen elite profs blabbing away from some laptop? Are MOOCs a “game changer” for higher education that, in fact, spells “game over”: Will MOOCs destroy the financial structure of the professorate and the very fiber of learning—all that is interactive, immediate, human, loving, and great about learning? That’s a short form list of many of the MOOC fears.
[ Full article available at HASTAC: http://hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/2013/06/11/clearing-some-myths-about-moocs ]