Grave dancers union?

Apparently, there’s this big edtech conference going on in Florida. The Chronicle reports:

MOOC fever is cooling, at least among campus information-technology administrators, according to the 2014 edition of the Campus Computing Survey, an annual report on technology in higher education.

While a little more than half of last year’s respondents thought MOOCs “offer a viable model for the effective delivery of online instruction,” just 38 percent of this year’s participants agreed with that statement. And only 19 percent of respondents in 2014 said MOOCs could generate new revenue for colleges, down from 29 percent last fall.

“I’m not surprised to see some pessimism about the role of MOOCs in the future,” said Norman Bier, director of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University. “After a lot of excitement and a little bit of hype over the past year or two, what we’re seeing is, simply taking learning materials and making them available is not a guarantee of quality.”

While I’m tempted to form a grave dancers union right this moment, all this really means is that the total automation of teaching is out. Other forms of deskilling, however, remain a viable option. Back to that story:

IT departments may be skeptical about MOOCs, but colleges are forging a digital future by creating online programs. And they’re enlisting help: Nearly a third (29 percent) of respondents said their colleges were outsourcing online-program development to third-party providers. Those “enablers,” such as Pearson Embanet, offer marketing services and technology support in exchange for payment.

That’s a ton of money that will be going to outsiders rather than faculty. Perhaps more importantly, those outsiders have no incentive to offer quality control as long as the money keeps flowing in their direction. In the end, developments like this may be even more pernicious than MOOCs because they’re less obviously stupid.

Jonathan Rees

Professor of History, Colorado State University - Pueblo.

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