Underneath the Hype

It can feel like everyone in the ed world has published their opinion on the MOOC craze; last week the Chronicle of Higher Education had a MOOC story on its front page each day.  These writings continue to clarify, shape and define this abstract, unique and heretofore uncontainable idea, so much of the writing hits traditional talking points:  for MOOCs, that would be 21st Century learners, access to Ivy League thinkers, shrinking budgets and rising costs, etc.  Finding unique thoughts among the writing, or interesting connections and comparisons, is not too difficult, as long as you read between the lines.  

Example:  Doug Ward wrote a MOOC primer for MediaShift, the PBS-sponsored hub for all things digital media and its revolution.  The article looks little at the pedagogy and theory behind learning in a MOOC and more at the user and the platform, but it is interesting to see that MediaShift is sponsored by Full Sail University, a for-profit university focusing its degrees in media creation.  Ward’s article celebrates the methods of for-profit education toward degrees and work of use-value, though he does not give examples of success, and does not discuss the effect MOOCs (free courses through noteworthy universities) would have on for-profit institutions, an effect many would consider negative.

EDIT 10:49AM PST – The picture on the MediaShift site (illustrated by Doug Ward) shows an early 20th Century schoolhouse now outfitted with technology…so the tablets the students hold are iPads and not chalkboards, and the teacher has a computer at her desk to track progress of the students.  One of the arguments from ed scholars is that technology should not just replace older materials for newer (and more expensive ones), but should revolutionize the way we do education and not work on an assumption that the 19th Century model perfected our theories, pedagogies and methods.  A brief starting point on this argument comes from Gary Stager (who has much more on the subject at his site).

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