MOOCs: Been There, Done That

20 Jan

By Thomas M. Rollins

Revolution is in the air. They say that MOOCs will create a “tsunami” in higher education: Recorded classes by a few superstar professors will eliminate an expensive and duplicative professoriate. Even the college campus may become economic flotsam in this New Age.

History and economics strongly suggest that this scenario is likely to be utter nonsense. Consider one historical fact: This has all been tried, and it has failed.

I do not refer to the loosely analogous prediction, made in 1885, that mail-­correspondence students would soon outnumber students on campuses. Nor to the prediction by the then chairman of the FCC that radio lectures would move higher education forward by 25 years, nor to the lavish hopes for “educational television.”

I am referring to 1998 to 2006, part of the dot-com era, when universities and private financiers created online-learning opportunities like MOOCs. I watched those enterprises carefully because they were potential competitors. From 1990 until late 2006, I founded and then ran the Teaching Company, which produces “The Great Courses,” noncredit classes taught by some of the country’s best college lecturers. For a time, we also ran an online university. With a few exceptions, however, the dot-com-era ventures went bust. Including ours.

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

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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in MOOCs in the News, Op-Ed


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