“Video killed the radio star.”

29 07 2013

As you might imagine, I’ve been reading a lot of insufferable technological determinism aimed in my direction ever since that Slate article came out. Of course, there’s been, “How dare you resist progress?” and “Don’t you understand business history?,” or, my favorite…well, let’s just say it gets even worse from there. Since I only title blog posts in order to amuse Ian Petrie now, I’ve decided to call the belief system that motivates these kinds of arguments, “The Buggles Theory of the History of Technology.”

Under this system, progress marches on from one technology to another (like video killing the radio star), always getting better. Under this system, the people who lose out need to just stand aside and accept their obsolescence without making a peep since the dead are silent. No mention of political decisions (like chronically underfunding higher education) or power structures (cough…contingent faculty…cough) or even the actual history of technology will be tolerated! And God forbid you mention the self-interest of your own profession, because that will invalidate your argument immediately since it proves that you’re biased.

Of course, MTV no longer plays any videos anymore, but that just proves their point doesn’t it? After all, if the people want “Teen Wolf” or “Buckwild” or reruns of “Jersey Shore,” then the history of MTV proves that capitalism works. After all, I can still watch any video I want on YouTube (such as “Video Killed the Radio Star”) whenever I want to see it. I can even embed it in a blog post. Therefore, the people have spoken!

That’s all well and good, but how do we know that students actually want MOOCs? Sure, tens of thousands of people will sign up to access MOOCs for free, but what evidence do we have that anybody, especially college-age students, will actually pay for them? I’ve covered potential problems with the MOOC business model in this post. What I want to do here is expand on what was point #3 there: Whether paying college students will be willing to put up with being treated like faces in the crowd.

In just the last few weeks, I’ve seen a lot more evidence that they won’t. For instance, here’s Rob Jenkins writing in the Chronicle:

It’s true that during the past decade, the number of students enrolled in online courses grew at a significant rate. But according to a recent study, that growth started leveling off in the fall of 2010, when about 31 percent of all postsecondary students were taking at least one online class. Researchers concluded that “the slower rate of growth … compared to previous years may be the first sign that the upward rise in online enrollments is approaching a plateau.”

Moreover, a survey conducted this year by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University found that students at two-year campuses, in particular, prefer face-to-face over online instruction, especially for courses they deem difficult.

So while some students want, need, and benefit from online classes, the argument that students in general are clamoring for them doesn’t exactly hold up.

This is just for online courses, the ones in which students can actually be treated as individuals. Student attitudes towards MOOCs inevitably have to be worse since they aren’t treated as individuals at all. [Don't worry, MOOC Messiah Squad, you can always just hold your hands over your ears and chant "access" until all the bad news goes away.]

Then there’s what happened in my own state. My friend, fellow cog in the CSU system machine and future debate partner Historiann reminds of this in her most recent post on MOOC Madness. Here she quotes an absolutely appalling op-ed from the Washington Post:

What about that experiment to offer dramatically reduced tuition for MOOCwork courses at Baa Ram U.? It’s even more hilarious than you can guess [Historiann's emphasis]:

Colorado State’s Global Campus advertised last year that it would give credit to enrolled students who passed a MOOC in computer science. This would cost students $89 instead of the $1,050 for a comparable course. There were no takers. Seven additional institutions are set to make similar offerings in the coming year. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, they expect only hundreds, not thousands, of takers.

But why are prospective students so reluctant to jump on the MOOC bandwagon when 10% of them stand to learn so much? Why is it only a few tenured edupreneurs at prestigious universities who are pushing MOOCs by reassuring us that they’re inevitable “for good or ill?” But why? Santy Claus, why? Why are you taking our Christmas tree? Why? Even the not-very-intelligent commenters at the Washington Post have called bull$hit on this advertorial: my favorite is the one that says “Yeah, and blow up dolls are a good substitute for a wife…”

I still think this is more an indictment of online education in general than MOOCs in particular, but students aren’t stupid. That’s why I wonder how much market research any of these schools are doing. What if “hundreds” turns out to be “a handful?” Where will that leave the Buggles Theory of the History of Technology?

Unfortunately, there’s one way that the Buggles Theory of the History of Technology can be rescued from the dustbin of horrible edtech punditry: Make sure that most students have no other option but MOOCs, and the people running the show can still make money even if many students do forego college in droves. However, that doesn’t have to happen.

It’s still early yet in the process of MOOC-ification. We can still rewind. We haven’t gone too far. Those of us who haven’t given themselves over to the Cult of MOOCs simply have to make sure that anti-MOOC remains the new black until the providers all come crashing down courtesy of their non-existent business plans. Cathy Davidson is right. If all the MOOCs went away tomorrow, higher ed would still be in a world of hurt, but at least those problems couldn’t get much, much worse much, much faster than anybody imagined before MOOC Mania began.





Three videos.

2 08 2011

My friend Al Jacobs played these three videos for our TAH teacher colloquium this afternoon. They are all well worth your time.

For instructions on how you can borrow them for classroom use, click here.





There goes a big chunk of my summer.

25 04 2011

When my friend Richard Facebooked “Salt of the Earth (1954)” over the weekend, I almost lost it. For one thing, here was one of the best labor movies ever made entirely online. For another thing, the ENTIRE thing was on YouTube. I had never seen that before.

Then I went to the channel where the movie was posted, and lost it again. Cinevault’s Openflix is an absolute treasure trove of old movies in their entirety. Sure, some of them probably stink, but I’ve seen enough excellent ones there to know there’s a lot of gems too like the best Frank Capra film ever made, “Meet John Doe (1942). Then there’s this piece of great timing, “Royal Wedding (1951).” and more Charlie Chaplin films than I’ve ever seen for free in one place. Mostly it’s shorts, but they also have “The Kid (1921).”

Lord, I’m going to have to stop sleeping now in order to get anything done.





Sounds like I wrote it, but I didn’t.

11 04 2011

When Jonathan Nash, the guy with my second favorite Twitter feed after SteveMartinToGo, h/t’ed me on a post entitled “Presidential Libraries on YouTube,” I assumed he must have confused me with one of the several thousand other academic Jonathans out there in the world. But no! AHA Today has indeed built a really good post on that subject playing off the two articles that I’ve written for Perspectives on that subject.

You should definitely read it, and if you already have then go here and volunteer some clips that you use in the comments. While you do that, I’m going to spend the little free time I have today poking around those presidential library resources and save the long post in my head about what a post-coverage model survey class would look like for tomorrow.





Greetings AHA Perspectives readers!

4 04 2011

Greetings to all of you who have come over here from my article in AHA Perspectives. If you haven’t, those of you who are AHA members (and therefore have access to it) should definitely click the above link and give that essay a read.

The subject of my piece is teaching history with YouTube. This is actually my second Perspectives article on the subject. [You can read the first one here even if you don't subscribe.] The first article was about where to find video for the history classroom. This one is more about the mechanics and pedagogy of how to use them.

When I wrote that first piece in 2008, the whole idea of using classroom video was novel enough that pointing people to YouTube as a source was a good enough suggestion for Perspectives to print it. When that article came out, I tried to get people to went from that article over to this blog to make some suggestions about what videos they use. Perhaps it’s because people are shy or perhaps it’s because the idea of teaching with YouTube was way ahead of its time, but that post has gotten a grand total of zero comments in all the years since I wrote it.

Eternal optimist that I am and knowing that a lot more people now are teaching history with YouTube than they were back then, I think I’ll repeat the same question I asked three years ago:

What are the best YouTube clips for use in the history classroom?

Please offer your suggestions with links in the comments below.





1960 Kennedy – Nixon Debate (excerpt)

24 07 2010

When I first tried teaching history with YouTube, I was immediately struck by how bad the clips from this debate were. This edited section from John F. Kennedy’s opening statement suggests the manner in which he linked domestic politics with the broader Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union. It’s also the first video where I’ve tried editing, and while it’s not particularly good editing, at least it’s short.





Timothy Leary’s Last Trip (excerpt).

8 07 2010

I hadn’t realized he went to West Point or that he was the first Harvard Professor to get fired since Ralph Waldo Emerson:








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