So my unit is making a MOOC.
I will admit that I’ve been underwhelmed with much of the hand-wringing about MOOCs. Most of the time the critique seems to be that they will threaten the traditional classroom. I’m just not that convinced that the kinds of traditional classrooms they plausibly threaten - mostly overcrowded, underfunded classrooms taught by underpaid, undersupported adjuncts - are serving anyone so wonderfully that they don’t deserve a little healthy competition. This widely-circulated letter from the San Jose State University Philosophy Department articulates powerful criticisms of Michael Sandel’s MOOC, but they seemed to me to be specific to that class and not generalizable to the technology as a whole. Watching my colleagues put a MOOC together, I am pretty impressed with the technological and pedagogical creativity involved. I am not prone to nostalgia or luddism, and it strikes me as an utterly open question whether the traditional classroom is the best educational forum for the vast majority of students who are not enrolled in fancy advanced seminars at top schools.
Now that I am in on the making of one of these, though, it seems to me that there are interesting problems they raise that are getting little to no attention. I want to mention a couple, although I can’t delve into them in detail in a blog post. I don’t claim these are the most pressing issues MOOCs raise; they are just examples. More..