This is going to make two more posts than I originally planned to write this week, but the quality of the comments has been so good lately that I thought I’d try to do a little summing up before we all likely ditch blogs and blogging for the holidays.
Like V.I.M., I have labor-related political problems with all MOOC-related activities. However, as an educator, I’m willing to work against my own self-interest for education’s sake. As a result, I understand Jeremy’s wishes to create the best MOOC possible. The problem with that, as Mazel pointed out deep in the comments of my last MOOC report post, is that once you unleash a MOOC in the world, you have no idea how it’s ultimately going to be used. The process of delivering education over the Internet allows it to be commodified and when education becomes commodified then quality inevitably takes a backseat to profit.
You’ve heard the joke about herding cats? College presidents tell that as a kind of back-handed insult, but I think it’s one of the best things about academia. Students will get different perspectives on the same discipline, different perspectives on teaching across disciplines and different perspectives on the world (including conservative ones from their econ proffies) if they take a wide range of courses. I think MOOCs threaten that. In the name of educating everybody, we might actually just educate everybody badly.
Perhaps you can create an interactive experience that mimics what I keep calling “real learning.” But how much can you really learn from just your peers? Sure, you can learn some things from your fellow students, but to say you can learn everything you need to know from them is to say that a graduate school education is completely useless. While that may be true in a commercial sense for most humanities Ph.D.s, I think that to say that from the standpoint of knowledge makes you the worst kind of philistine.