By Kevin Werbach
Ah, the life of a superprofessor. Since I started teaching a massive open online course, I’ve been called “Internet royalty” by the Financial Times and been told I had great skin on the public-radio show Marketplace. This must be what the edX president Anant Agarwal meant when, responding to concerns that MOOCs were overhyped, he asked, “What better to hype than education? For the first time, you’re going to make the teacher a rock star” (Information Week).
And you know what? I hate it.
It’s not that I mind the attention, or the compliments. I’m always happy to give my parents some material to show that their son the academic isn’t wasting his life in the ivory tower. And it’s validating to be recognized for the hard work I’ve put into teaching about a new subject in a new way. No, what troubles me is what the myth of the MOOC instructor as rock star implies. It’s not just wrong; it’s dangerous.
Agarwal isn’t the only one framing things this way. The notion that a growing share of courses will be taught by renowned “superprofs” permeates the MOOC conversation. And it’s easy to understand why. What teacher wouldn’t want hundreds of thousands of adoring fans? What student wouldn’t want the pedagogical equivalent of Bono or Bruce Springsteen giving their lectures?
We need to stop talking this way. Reinforcing the view of MOOC instructors as rock stars is bad for professors, bad for universities, and, most important, bad for students.
[ Full article available at the Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2013/10/25/dont-call-us-rock-stars/ ]