Advice for Middle-Age Seekers of MOOCs, Part 2

11 Sep

By The New York Times

Cathy N. Davidson, a professor of English and interdisciplinary studies at Duke University, is answering readers’ questions about how to find and use Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other online continuing education tools. Part 1 of her answers is here.

Cathy N. Davidson, professor of English at Duke University who advocates new forms of learning in the digital age.

Professor Davidson, besides teaching a class, “Making Data Matter,” co-directing the Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge and holding two distinguished chairs, is a co-founder of the Humanities, Arts, Technology and Science Alliance and Collaboratory (Hastac), which describes itself as “a network of innovators dedicated to new forms of learning for the digital age.” She was appointed in 2012 by President Obama to the National Council on the Humanities and is co-director of the annual MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions. Her 20 books include “Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn” (Viking, 2011).

Earlier this year on the Hastac site, she posted an article, “Clearing Up Some Myths About MOOCs,” describing her mixed experience sampling online courses and her decision to teach a free, open, public MOOC offered through Coursera in January 2014, called The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education. (Besides working with Coursera, she is an unpaid adviser to another for-profit provider of MOOCs, Udacity, as well as dozens of other educational institutions.) She blogs as “Cat in the Stack” at and you can follower her on Twitter @CathyNDavidson.

Battling High Drop-Out Rates

Q. Online learning has notoriously high drop-out rates for K-12 and college students. For-profit private online education companies are rushing to profit at the trough of public education money. When nonprofit education institutions offer coursework online, they depersonalize education, create a two-tiered education system, eliminate diversity of instruction, and put educators out of work. —Amy, Nevada

A. Due to length, we decided to break my answers into two parts, the first focusing on mostly positive aspects of MOOCs, and this part addressing some of the negatives. One of the biggest downsides of MOOCs is the “magical thinking” that leads people to believe the hype that MOOCs will solve all the economic problems of higher education. They won’t. I’ve written about this before in more detail (e.g., “Why College Costs So Much—and Why the Pundits Get it Wrong”). MOOCs cannot in themselves reverse the drastic cuts in higher education that have driven the tuition increases at public institutions over the last decades.

[ Full article available at The New York Times: ]

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Posted by on September 11, 2013 in MOOCs in the News, Op-Ed



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