Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Can MOOCS replace face-to-face teaching/learning?

Peter Scott, a professor of higher education studies, writes about MOOCS in yesterday's Guardian.

The acronym stands for mass open online courses, now rapidly replacing face-to-face teaching/learning in post-secondary education in Britain and the U.S.. The idea is to make higher education more accessible to the masses by uploading more and more courses to the Cloud. But the reality is that the testing and credentialing component, along with the separation of  teaching from accreditation that goes along with MOOCS, are actually making the end product even more unattainable for all but the elite.

In my view, the ones who stand to benefit the most are the big global media and testing companies, like Pearson and global online diploma mills like the University of Phoenix.

Writes Scott:
Government cuts, high fees, league-table snobbism – all point to a reinforcement of elite forms of higher education. Attempts to deliver HE-lite through further education colleges and private providers are never going to get very far. So Moocs provide the perfect cover story – "higher education for the masses" when real-world opportunities to go to university are being cut.
Scott makes the case that the debate about the potential of Moocs has to be put into a wider context, "a more fundamental debate about the nature of the university curriculum and teaching in a mass system." He asks, how can the Socratic tutorial coexist with the delivery of expert skills? How can we keep the curriculum open in increasingly industrialized "learning environments" and "managed" institutions?
There is another equally fundamental debate about "openness" more generally – the links between open-access courses and open access (good old "widening participation") and between open-source research publication and democratic science, and also between both and the need to build an open society.
Difficult stuff, writes Scott – "but far better than narrowing the debate about Moocs to a neo-liberal fix."


  1. The most important aspect of your post Mike, the more educated the public is in general, the better off a society will be. (regardless of certifications, etc.) The more a society evolves to JOT-master of none, the more informed each individual's decision will be. One of the core elements that makes YouTube so popular. The MOOCS also support our evolution towards the knowledge worker of the future. Great stuff Mike.

  2. Dear Mike Klonsky,

    Given your own recent ruminations on MOOCs vs. the small classroom environment, I hope you might appreciate my little plea for "close learning":

    Yours sincerely,

    Scott Newstok
    Department of English
    Rhodes College