Sunday, June 02, 2013

Wait, what? So Coursera wants to be Blackboard when it grows up?

This Inside Higher Ed article about MOOC partnerships has me confused. Instead of offering free education for the masses, and definitely not the classes, Coursera has another business model in mind, and it's coming soon to a state university near you.
But some universities will try Coursera to see how well they can use its software to offer traditional for-credit online classes to dozens of registered students at once. If universities like the platform, long-time industry players like Desire2Learn and Blackboard could find themselves with new competition.
 If a little competition will improve Blackboard, I'm all for it. I think, though, that what they're talking about is selling content modules of the sort that a lot of textbook providers already have available for Blackboard.
Koller said she now wants people to start thinking of Coursera content as
a textbook.
Figure 1. Daphne Koller tries a different approach
to explain MOOCs to wary faculty members.
Clever girl, Daphne Koller. Since faculty have been making a fuss, the message has changed from  "MOOCs are shiny and good for us all" to  "Don't fear the MOOC! It's just a talking textbook."

But the dream of a professor-less class, or an unprofessor class where knowledge of the person in the room doesn't count, hasn't died yet:
SUNY's associate provost, Carey Hatch, said the system also plans to offer incentives to campuses to develop and consume online courses that meet general education requirements. Some courses could be “guided MOOCs” where a SUNY instructor helps SUNY students work their way through a course that was created by another institution. 
See that "develop and consume"? How much will state universities be allowed to develop, and how much will they have to pay to "consume" content that they probably already have in their "online classes that meet" gen ed requirements?
“We hope to reach more students with the existing faculty that we have,” Hatch said. 
"Reach more students with the existing faculty that we have"--I'm confused again. Does mean that state schools' "existing faculty" will get to grade and tutor more students than ever before but still will not be allowed to run their own courses?
To partner with so many institutions, however, Coursera will sidestep a contractual obligation to primarily offer courses from members of the Association of American Universities or “top five” universities in countries outside of North America. It will do so by creating a new section of its website to house material from the less-than-elite state universities. This different section will offer MOOCs but will be branded in a different way.
Figure 2. Don Draper didn't get the account,
but the Coca-Cola of ketchups is
still iconic as a brand.
They really aren't kidding about perpetuating class structures with this model.  You can buy Heinz, or you can buy store brand ketchup, but it'll be absolutely clear on everyone's transcript.

You'll be shocked to learn, in a follow-up article at IHE, that SUNY faculty weren't told about this brave new plan for their futures until after the administrators had made it a done deal.


Z said...

It all still really is about having non-expert faculty.

Getting content modules or ideas for them from other people, we all do it but to do it you have to be in field and have connections. They are doing this on the theory that they will no longer hire experts.

See also:

Z said...

P.S. update. My piece that cites the blog is going to be in Academe. You will become more famous.

undine said...

Z, I have never seen that site--thanks. You may be right about the "no experts" part--and thank you for the Academe fame!

Z said...

Do you know I am taking a Coursera MOOC, to see what MOOCs are like?

Professor does not have training in field of course. I don't think our accreditation agency would let him teach this course as he does not have 18 graduate hours in field.

Course is 18,000 students around the world interested in topic and what it amounts to is them sharing materials about it.

Some have found Coursera software clunky and decamped to Facebook. They discuss on Facebook and then go back to Coursera to turn in assignments.

Professor is impossible to contact, basically, puts up videos and a grab bag of materials but I have not found a way to contact to ask my questions - could you clarify X in the lecture, do you realize most students did not understand this key reading, could you address and contextualize, etc.