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A Star MOOC Professor Defects—at Least For Now

03 Sep

Mitchell Duneier, a sociologist at Princeton, loved teaching a MOOC introductory course. But he has stopped offering it, for fear that such courses will ultimately help undermine the financing of public universities
[ Princeton University ]

By Marc Parry

Mitchell Duneier once was a MOOC star. But today he’s more like a conscientious objector. Worried that the massive open online courses might lead legislators to cut state-university budgets, the Princeton University sociology professor has pulled out of the movement—at least for now.

After teaching introductory sociology through Coursera last year, Mr. Duneier extolled his experience in a Chronicle commentary. The New York Times featured him on its front page, and Thomas L. Friedman wrote about him in a column. One of Coursera’s founders, Daphne Koller, plugged his course in a TED talk.

But Mr. Duneier has now ceased teaching his sociology MOOC. The change of heart happened, he says, after Coursera approached him about licensing his course so other colleges could use the content in a blended format, meaning a mix of online and face-to-face instruction. That could save the colleges money.

“I’ve said no, because I think that it’s an excuse for state legislatures to cut funding to state universities,” Mr. Duneier says. “And I guess that I’m really uncomfortable being part of a movement that’s going to get its revenue in that way. And I also have serious doubts about whether or not using a course like mine in that way would be pedagogically effective.”

Now Mr. Duneier is taking a “wait and see” approach. He calls his noncredit Coursera class, which reached 40,000 students from 113 countries during its run in the summer of 2012, “one of the greatest experiences of my career.” He would teach a MOOC again, he says, given the right circumstances.

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/A-MOOC-Star-Defects-at-Least/141331/ ]

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Posted by on September 3, 2013 in MOOCs in the News

 

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