Remember MOOCs?

Who wants a writing update? Well, you’re going to get one anyway. JP and I split up the chapters of Education Is Not an App about a month ago, and I’ve whipped out a good first draft of Chapter One about online education in general pretty quickly. It’s funny that this is the first work I’m writing with Scrivener and the little cards that show up in corkboard mode are all about the length of a single blog post. It’s not that I’m plagiarizing myself exactly. Not only will JP get a crack at a rewrite before we turn in the manuscript, but the final product will have to be at least a bit more formal than blog writing (and hopefully less sarcastic too).

This morning, my plan was to start plotting out my version of Chapter Two, the inevitable MOOC chapter, so that I can let JP catch up and get to writing about ice around the time that next semester starts. Then Daphne Koller dropped this little incentive to get my butt in gear right into my lap:

“One early prediction about MOOCs was that they would undermine or even replace the traditional college education—an idea we at Coursera never endorsed.”

Run “Koller” through the search engine on my old site (something I’ve been doing with a lot of different terms lately as I look for evidence for my arguments), and here’s part of the second entry that comes up:

“My immediate response was, “Who ever said Coursera wanted to put universities out of business?”… Successful parasites never kill their hosts. They just slowly suck the lifeforce out of them.

The real criticism against Coursera from MOOC skeptics like me is not that they want to put universities out of business, but that they want to put faculty at non-elite universities on the unemployment line. Too many university administrators dream at night of faculty at Point A, students at countless point Bs and themselves at Point C simply cashing the tuition checks. Coursera’s MOOCs offer these administrators the opportunity to cut out point A almost entirely, making sure that they don’t have to pay the glorified TAs tending to MOOC administration a living wage or give them anything that even faintly resembles tenure.”

Leave universities. Eliminate the professors. Kind of like an academic neutron bomb for the over-educated.

Where’s my proof? Here are some more of the Koller quotes that I found by clicking the links on the “Koller” search results at my old blog:

1) “The interactivity that MOOCs offer is far superior to that offered by older forms of online education, and they have significant advantages over classroom-based education.”

2) “Unbundling is a good thing,” Koller says, “because it allows you to extract units from courses that are of value in and of themselves, and provide them for students.

3) “Daphne Koller even argued that large online classes are better than small classes because when you have the students do the grading and the feedback, the quality of the responses goes up and the time for responding goes down.”

No, Coursera doesn’t want to destroy universities. They just want to destroy instruction as we know by re-defining what education is in such a way that administrators can then spend more money on sports teams, climbing walls and their own salaries rather than on faculty.

Don’t you feel better now?

Jonathan Rees

Professor of History, Colorado State University - Pueblo.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Laura Gibbs

    Argh, Coursera. A bad dream from which we might never wake up…
    Anyway, I wanted to let you know about a great K-12 blog that you might enjoy:
    CURMUDGUCATION: A grumpy old teacher trying to keep up the good classroom fight in the new age of reformy stuff.
    The author, Peter Greene, just recently went through the latest self-aggrandizing manifesto from Pearson (Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment), and he offers many useful comments, esp. about Pearson trying to eliminate teachers/instruction as we know it from their utopia of nonstop data collection. It’s a series of posts; they are number 1-4 and then there is a summing-up one:
    Pearson’s Renaissance (1): History and Revolution
    Here’s the summing up:
    6 Lessons from Pearson’s Assessment Renaissance
    Happy writing!

Leave a Reply