By Louis Hyman
Co-authored by Edward Baptist, Historian, Cornell University
If, as the New York Times claimed, 2012 was the Year of the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course), then 2013 was the Year of Pushback Against the MOOC. The point versus counterpoint played out according to a predictable script.
First right-wing entrepreneurs, who see American universities as a nest of inefficient yet arrogant tenured radicals, proclaimed that higher education was a “bubble.” Traditional universities, they announced, would be rendered extinct by the MOOC-as-category-killer, which could deliver a free product to consumers around the world.
Academics fired back, insisting that taped lectures, multiple-choice questions graded by algorithm, and troll-filled discussion threads were no substitute for actual human beings. As results from the road-testing of MOOCs started to trickle in over the second half of 2013, the critics proclaimed victory. Typically, less than ten percent of students who initially signed up for such “courses” completed them.
We — two historians who are preparing to launch one of Cornell’s first MOOCs, American Capitalism: A History — think that both sides are wrong. MOOCs can transform higher education — by strengthening universities in ways that decrease the cost of education and enhance the role of traditional teaching. These transformations promise improved education, both for college students, and for everyone who wants to learn more. Either/or apocalyptic thinking has blinded academics to the possibilities inherent in the MOOC concept. MOOCs can’t replace traditional classrooms, but they can turn the classroom back into the realm of discussion and active learning that the defenders of traditional education say it should be — yet too rarely is.
[ Full article available at The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/louis-hyman/market-values-are-not-moo_b_4760112.html ]