Why we won’t teach your MOOC

by Stephanie Chasteen on May 3, 2013

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an open letter from San Jose State University (Philosophy Department) indicating why they refused to teach a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered through EdX.  It’s incredibly thoughtful and powerful, foretelling a future where university education is simply the facilitation of such pre-packaged courses by a glorified teaching assistant, losing the local character, context, and expertise of the hosting institution and individual academics.  Here is a summary article by the Chronicle about the letter, which has some rather unsatisfying comments by San Jose State officials, and the professor who provided the original MOOC, but I found the letter much more interesting.

I hadn’t realized that these recorded MOOC lectures were being contracted by other universities as course material — I thought that MOOC’s were primarily used by individuals.  This is a troublesome trend to me.  While such online lectures could feasibly be used in a “flipped classroom” style approach, the more likely use is to replace local expertise with national “superstar” lecturers.  It feels quite counter to the aim of a university education, to develop deep expertise in contact with experts in your field of study.


{ 1 comment }

Mark Cistaro June 4, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I’m not saying we should ignore finances, but this is a perfect example of what happens when education is treated as a business. Nevermind the fact that everything we have learned about education reenforces the notion that it is very much a relationship between student and teacher.

We don’t need to provide this service, we can contract it out. (EdX is now the course material)

We’ll save on benefits. (No actual instructor)

We’ll get a “better” product, that superstar from that random Ivy League school. (Because EVERYONE knows Ivy League = better)

P.S. This is a fun site. Thank you.

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