An Open Letter to Sherry Turkle On MOOCs and Online Learning

25 Oct

By Joshua Kim

Dear Dr. Turkle,

I am writing this open letter to you after reading your chapter on Education in your important, indispensable, and beautifully written new book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.

In the spirit of your wonderful and generous book, I’d like to offer my critique as an invitation to conversation. 

Critique #1 – MOOCs and Online Education Are Not the Same Thing:

In Reclaiming Conversation, you make the mistake of characterizing MOOCs as interchangeable with online education.

This mistake is distressingly common amongst journalists, but in a book as influential as Reclaiming Conversation I find the conflation of these two educational methods to be particularly troublesome.

The only thing that MOOCs and traditional online education share is a common enabling set of technologies – the internet and the phone.

MOOCs contain two attributes that put them in a separate category to traditional online learning.  First, they are built for scale.  Second, they are built to be open.

Traditional online courses are designed neither for scale or for openness.

Traditional online courses are built around a model of a private community, one consisting of an educator and a limited number of students.

MOOCs are to traditional online learning as a Facebook-only friend is to a real friend.

Critique #2 – Traditional Online Education Privileges Relationships and Conversation:

What is lost in your conflation of MOOCs with traditional online courses is an appreciation of the degree to which online courses (and programs) are built around a pedagogical philosophy that is aligned with your main arguments in Reclaiming Conversation.

[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: ]

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Posted by on October 25, 2015 in MOOCs in the News, Op-Ed



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