Sunday, March 18, 2012

Udemy and MOOCs: is this the future?

Margaret Soltan at University Diaries has been posting a lot lately about her participation in The Faculty Project, which seems to be part of, an online space for MOOCs (massive open online courses). I've been intrigued by this, since in addition to hating plagiarism, corruption in sports, online for-profit education, and Big Pharma, she's been as scathing about the use of technology in the classroom as she is about poor writing.

A lot of the courses at Udemy are how-to and technical courses that teach students how to program in Python, create games for the iPad, and so on. Soltan's course is on interpreting poetry, and since she analyzes a lot of poetry at University Diaries, this is a natural extension.

I keep seeing that the MOOC is the future of the university, if there IS a future for the university.
The New York Times tells me so, and who am I to argue with the New York Times?

Still, I'm curious:
  • If you hate the idea of PowerPoint or technology in the classroom and also hate online courses, why would you participate in this?
  • Is Udemy and its system of MOOCs something Soltan sees as a way to counter for-profit online education?
  • Do the "best Professors from the world's leading Universities" (tm) get paid for participating in these, and do they have any responsibilities beyond recording lectures?
  • Assessment right now is by computer-graded tests, and discussions are held in forums; the idea, according to the New York Times, is to get everyone to an "A+" level. How might this work in the humanities?
  • When might Udemy decide that Udemy graduates or badgeholders who've taken a MOOC course would be "the best Professors from the world's leading Universities" and worthy to record courses, since the MOOC courses will not bear the name or logo of the university from which the current "best Professors" hail?
  • Or are we in a beehive situation, where a select few prerecord wisdom for the MOOC worker bees and the bees can't hope to move from wisdom-ingesting to wisdom-dispensing?
Updated to add: Margaret Soltan graciously answers all these questions and more over at Inside Higher Ed:


Bardiac said...

I really don't get this movement on some level: IF most people learned really effectively by working alone on something (reading or watching or whatever), then the invention of the public library pretty much would have meant the end of the university.

But it didn't. That's because most people need help learning.

And as a teacher, I expect to be paid to help people learn. If I'm not paid, I can't eat or have shelter, clothing, etc, so I won't be teaching, I'll find something to do that will enable my survival.

But, I'm just some rube teacher at a public regional, right?

Z said...

Bardiac, yes.

I didn't know about Udemy before this post but then looked and was fascinated.

A really good Brazilianist is about to put up 15 lectures on Brazilian history.

So, I can assign them, you see. If there were a Brazilian historian here, they could take his class, and if we had more really good symposia and so on, they would go to those; we don't have those things and the public library is being closed and the university has not acquired books for our library since my last megagrant in 2007; however, we have Udemy.