MOOCs and Lifelong Learners

12 Dec

By Jonathan Haber
Chief Learner, Degree of Freedom

In many of the backlash stories I wrote about recently, a certain argument seems to be repeated that asks why schools and investors should be sinking millions into creating educational resources (i.e., MOOCs) that we all know just benefit older, educated, professional (and by implication well-off, middle-class) lifelong learners who already have so much, vs. using those same resources to advance the education of the neediest.

I’ll admit there is a certain emotional resonance to such an argument. (Who, after all, doesn’t want to do the most they can help the poor and struggling?) But over time I’ve become increasingly impatient with this charge and have only just started to figure out why.

For starters, let’s take as a given that the upwards of 75-80 percent of people who currently take MOOC classes already have a degree (sometimes more than one) and could probably find other ways to learn some of the things they’ve been studying even if MOOCs didn’t exist. At the very least, this means that one-fifth to one-quarter of students enrolled in a MOOC do not fit this demographic. Now as a fraction, that’s pretty small. But if you apply it to the number of people taking a massive online course, that means we’re talking about thousands and thousands of young students who are taking advantage of the educational opportunities they might not otherwise have access to.

No doubt many of those younger students also fall into the well-off/middle-class category, and here the implication is that any self-education performed by people fitting into this demographic represents little more than self-indulgent recreational learning. But does that include the hundreds or thousands of teachers learning how to educate students more effectively by taking MOOC classes as part of their professional development programs? Or professionals around the world learning how to improve public health by taking courses such as HarvardX’s Health and Society?

[ Full article available at The Huffington Post: ]

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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in MOOCs in the News, Op-Ed


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