MOOCs:  Gender, Class and Empire
Much of the discussion of MOOCs has focused on (alternately) their promise of providing “the best teachers” to students around the world, and presenting cheap quality education to the masses; or the threat they pose to education, in replacing face to face contact with potted lectures, further deskilling and de-professionalizing those of us who teach at less elite universities.  We want to argue that MOOCs raise broader questions than those usually mentioned. In the course of listening to a discussion of MOOCs at the recent meeting of the ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies), we realized that MOOCs must be analyzed in the context of the U.S. American discourse of gender, class, and empire.
One aspect of MOOCs is that the stars are (almost) all men.
  At one website only 9 of 56 History MOOCS were presented by women.  Without a doubt, the model of the MOOC – of the authoritative talking head – is one that privileges cultural perceptions of men and male control over certain types of knowledge.  The gendered nature of the hierarchy of knowledge transmission that takes place is clear in the MOOC model of education. Although “students” are invited to respond at different points, to a large extent, the presenter controls the topic, the vocabulary, and the trajectory of whatever “dialogue” might take place. In recent stories on MOOCs at Princeton and Harvard, the instructors (all men) are described by their reputation as charismatic teachers. Read more...