The New Yorker has a big sprawling piece on MOOCs - a Must-Read.
New material, too. -CJW
Here's the set-up:
Many people think that moocs are the future of higher education in America. In the past two years, Harvard, M.I.T., Caltech, and the University of Texas have together pledged tens of millions of dollars to mooc development. Many other Èlite schools, from U.C. Berkeley to Princeton, have similarly climbed aboard. Their stated goal is democratic reach. "I expect that there will be lots of free, or nearly free, offerings available," John L. Hennessy, the president of Stanford, explained in a recent editorial. "While the gold standard of small in-person classes led by great instructors will remain, online courses will be shown to be an effective learning environment, especially in comparison with large lecture-style courses."
Some lawmakers, meanwhile, see moocs as a solution to overcrowding; in California, a senate bill, introduced this winter, would require the state's public colleges to give credit for approved online courses. (Eighty-five per cent of the state's community colleges currently have course waiting lists.) Following a trial run at San JosÈ State University which yielded higher-than-usual pass rates, eleven schools in the California State University system moved to incorporate moocs into their curricula. In addition to having their own professors teach, say, electrical engineering, these colleges may use videos by teachers at schools such as M.I.T.
But moocs are controversial, and debate has grown louder in recent weeks. In mid-April, the faculty at Amherst voted against joining a mooc program. Two weeks ago, the philosophy department at San JosÈ State wrote an open letter of protest to Michael J. Sandel, a Harvard professor whose flagship college course, Justice, became JusticeX, a mooc, this spring. "There is no pedagogical problem in our department that JusticeX solves," the letter said. The philosophers worried that the course would make the San JosÈ State professor at the head of the classroom nothing more than "a glorified teaching assistant." They wrote,"The thought of the exact same social justice course being taught in various philosophy departments across the country is downright scary."
(illustration: The New Yorker)
Here a MOOC, there a MOOC, everywhere a MOOC MOOC by C.J. Westerberg