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What Qualifies Best Teachers?

One of my pet peeves in the MOOC hype is the discussion of best teachers.  Whether it’s Thomas Friedman, Bill Gates, Sal Khan, or the fringes of the political spectrum (left and right), rhetoric regarding xMOOCs explicitly states that the structure will allow many people to take class offerings from the best teachers in the world.  However, no one has offered a rationale on a) what constitutes a best teacher in the world, and b) how they will end up fronting MOOCs such as those offered by Udacity, Coursera and edX.  The rhetoric is as follows:  MOOCs are partnering with prestigious universities, step 2, best teachers in the world.  This fits a dominant ideology of prestigious universities, but perhaps we should challenge such ideology, because when we do the rhetoric looks more like this:


Equating institutional affiliation with ability is not a reliable indicator of success.  Professors at prestigious universities perhaps are the best teachers in the world, or they may be good researchers, or they may be well-known in their field, or they may have a great deal of publishings, or perhaps they once were the best in the world at (teaching, publishing, research, publicity) but their recent scholarship has languished.  To anoint a professor as one of the best teachers in the world because of their institutional affiliation is a superficial, research-bereft method of analysis.   Continue reading