Left and right unite and fight: MOOC edition.

22 05 2012

I have all kinds of problems with this essay by Robert Oscar Lopez, but I want to focus on the part where we agree:

Tom Friedman of the New York Times is hardly an ally to conservatives, so beware when we start to sound like him, extolling the virtue of depersonalized, computerized instruction between super-professors and hundreds of thousands of faceless students getting cheap certificates.

It’s funny when you think about it. The right has been up in arms about universities being hotbeds of indoctrination for at least as long as I’ve been in this business, yet for some reason the question of online education seems to have fallen into the left/right chasm in this country. Conservatives are generally for it (perhaps because of their entrepreneurial bent), while liberals (at least the ones outside of university administration) are generally against. I find that odd because if this MOOC thing gets carried out to its logical conclusion, the business proffies will be unemployed too.

OK, maybe some of them will become super-professors (I am so stealing that term for future use), but I strongly suspect that the super-professoriate will continue to be dominated by liberals. Speaking personally, I do my best not to indoctrinate my students by actually talking to them about what they think and why they think it. Sometimes this happens in class. Sometimes it happens outside of class. How this is going to happen when a super-professor is teaching 35,000 people at once totally eludes me.

As no less a technological enthusiast as Joshua Kim writes at IHE:

Massively open online courses are wonderful things, but they should not be confused with a higher education. A MOOC, if well designed, can be a terrific method for information transfer, practice and assessment. Education contains all these elements, but an authentic educational experience requires dialogue. If our campuses are running courses that are absent real dialogue between students and instructors then we guilty of educational malpractice.

By extension, when a super-professor tells his or her students that Ronald Reagan was the Devil and the conservatives in that massive crowd have no recourse to challenge that assertion, I think that’s a bad thing. So should you, no matter which side of the political divide you happen to occupy.



6 responses

22 05 2012

Exactly. Bravo.

22 05 2012
Pamela Hanford

Absolutely. Thank you for a fair and balanced observation.

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