This article at ARS Technica is noteworthy because it features a long interview with me (the contents of which will surprise nobody who reads this blog regularly). It also features an interview with Andrew Ng of Coursera explaining why all my fears are misplaced:
But Andrew Ng doesn’t believe that the academy is facing an either/or choice. Ng, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Director of Artificial Intelligence Lab at Stanford University, is the co-founder of MMOC company, Coursera.
Ng believes a “flipped classroom” frees up the professor to engage in the very direct follow-up and face-to-face dialogue Rees worries about losing. A flipped classroom is one in which the lecture portion of the course is provided online and class time is used to facilitate discussion and interaction. Ng’s goal, and that of Coursera, is to “make professors even better at teaching and teaching more fun.”
He does not believe online coursework will replace professors, but augment them. In a flipped university, it will make professors freer and more engaged. Those who could otherwise never afford to attend a high-end university, or perhaps any university at all, can use companies like Coursera to garner an education they would otherwise have to do without.
So everyone gets to be a super-professor? Of course not. Otherwise it wouldn’t save anyone any money. In a flipped classroom situation, the professor becomes a teaching assistant, losing control of the curriculum and the opportunity to utilize much of the experience that made he or she a professor in the first place.
Give up these prerogatives voluntarily and you risk losing everything. After all, what’s to stop anyone’s administration from taking over your flipped classroom and putting in cheaper, less-experienced labor to provide all the personal touches?
If you trust the guy who stands to make a fortune off the corpse of your career to answer that question truthfully then maybe you aren’t smart enough to be teaching anybody.