A MOOC Delusion: Why Visions to Educate the World Are Absurd

15 Jul

By Ghanashyam Sharma

Computer-globeAs The Chronicle recently reported, perhaps the most prominent motivation among professors at prestigious universities for teaching massively open online courses, or MOOCs, is “altruism—a desire to increase access to higher education worldwide.”

In itself, the desire to increase access to quality education for millions across the world is a laudable one. After seven years of being within American academe, first as a graduate student and now as an instructor, I share that desire. I wish to make my teaching available for students around the world who aspire to learn from knowledgeable educators regardless of national borders.

But I don’t share the delusion that seems to be the basis for the excitement over MOOCs among my colleagues here in the United States. There is a dire need for some healthy skepticism among educators about the idea that MOOCs are a wonderful means to go global in order to do good. For our desire to educate the whole world from the convenience of our laptops to be translated into any meaningful effect, we need more research about how students learn in massive open online platforms, and a better understanding of how students from different academic, cultural, social, and national backgrounds fare in such spaces.

Let me explain why I used such a strong word as “delusion” with the help of a brief personal story. When I joined the graduate program in English at the University of Louisville, I had been a teacher of English for more than a decade in Nepal. I had taught English language, literature, linguistics, literary criticism, critical theory, and intellectual history of the West starting from elementary school all the way up to the university. That extensive teaching experience gave me confidence both in the subject matter and in my teaching skills. Even though my speech and writing had a slight South Asian “accent,” I did not consider language proficiency a challenge.

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: ]

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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in MOOCs in the News, Op-Ed



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