I’m pretty sure the author of this NYT piece on “The Year of the MOOC” was deliberately trying to ruin my weekend. I will leave it to others to give it a thorough fisking, but I’d like to take a few minutes out of my Sunday to discuss this line:
Most offerings are adapted from existing courses: a Princeton Coursera course is a Princeton course.
Well, yes and no. Certainly, my problem with my MOOC experience has been that the history that’s being delivered clearly resembles face-to-face history classes given all over the world. While this undoubtedly works wonders for Professor Adelman on campus, it loses something when it comes through the computer screen. For instance, the fact that you’re shelling out thousands of dollars to listen to this guy so you better pay attention.
On the other hand, my MOOC is not a Princeton course in the sense that Princeton courses have required reading. Princeton courses (if I remember all of Jeremy’s e-mail’s correctly) require more written work,. Most notably, Princeton courses have somebody with an advanced degree (or who is on their way to an advanced degree) doing the grading for you.
So why does Princeton and/or Coursera want to blur the distinction between Princeton courses and simulations of Princeton courses? This is from the same NYT article:
No one showed at the meet-up that Stacey Brown, an information technology manager at a Hartford insurance company, scheduled for a 14th-floor conference room on a Thursday after work, despite R.S.V.P.’s from a few classmates in the area. He’s taking three Coursera MOOCs, including “Gamification” from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. In addition to the learning — and dropping to bosses that he’s taking a Wharton course — Mr. Brown says, “I hope to get a network.”
Perhaps they like the idea of people dropping their name, whether the use of that name is really justified or not. Am I being elitist here? I don’t think so. To use a business metaphor, Penn and Princeton both know that they’re issuing “A” shares and “B” shares. There may be a lot more “B” shares out there some day, but the people with the on campus educations are the ones who’ll keep all the “A” shares and there will always be just enough “A” shares in order to keep control of the company.
I actually prefer the idea of a personalized, quality education for everybody. Does that make me a Luddite, a fascist or a hippie? I’m having trouble keeping track.