Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Short blogging break and some MOOC articles

Travel and a research trip, about which I'll write later, but for now, a couple of thoughtful posts on MOOCs:

An article on the MOOC business model by CUCFA President Robert Meister:

Sample: The educational Commons you propose is one in which the private owners of instructional platforms like Coursera will appropriate without exchange profitable information that can eventually be used to determine how much rent can be charged for access to the “Common” based on our personal, demographic, academic, and income profiles. (For this purpose you could correlate our unique user identity and online performance with other databases in existence or yet to be developed.) The free educational “Common” that Coursera’s business model promises is already programmed to be enclosed as private property. Your eventual entry fee can be dynamically priced (like airline tickets) to reflect the changing levels of student optimism or desperation about the future on which your long-term marketing strategy relies.

"Is College Moving Online?" by Nathan Heller at The New Yorker.

Sample: “I was surprised at the outcome,” David W. Wills, a professor of religious history at Amherst, told me. “It seemed to come down the road as something that was going to happen.” Wills started out being open to moocs, he said. But the more he heard the more his concerns grew, and none of edX’s representatives seemed able to address them. “One of the edX people said, ‘This is being sponsored by Harvard and M.I.T. They wouldn’t do anything to harm higher education!’ What came to my mind was some cautious financial analysts saying, about some of the financial instruments that were being rolled out in the late nineties or early two-thousands, ‘This is risky stuff, isn’t it?’ And being told, ‘Goldman Sachs is doing it; Lehman Brothers is doing it.’ ” The language he heard from edX, he said, was the rhetoric of tech innovation—seemingly to the exclusion of anything else—and he worried about academia falling under hierarchical thrall to a few star professors. “It’s like higher education has discovered the megachurch,” he told me.
He and others worried about what this might do to smaller preachers. “I have to say, it turned my stomach to think that we were going to be making decisions about other people’s jobs in a discussion to which they were not party,” Adam Sitze, a member of the department of law, jurisprudence, and social thought at Amherst, told me. “Some very brilliant people are at institutions that are not wealthy.” In a meeting, one of Sitze’s colleagues, the political theorist Thomas L. Dumm, described the conveyance of moocs to weaker universities as “eating our seed corn.”
And from earlier in the article:
“I could easily see a great institution like Harvard having a dynamic archive where, even after I’m gone—not just retired but let’s say really gone, I meandead—aspects of the course could interlock with later generations of teachers and researchers,” Nagy told me. “Achilles himself says it in Rhapsody 9, Line 413: ‘I’m going to die, but this story will be like a beautiful flower that will never wilt.’ ”
Comment: There's a thin line between immortality as a beautiful flower and immortality as an undead zombie that eats the brains of the living.   

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