Does this read like a Coursera or Udacity press realease to you, too?
Whether for good or ill, MOOCs augur a disruption of the relationships among students, colleges and trade schools, and the credentials those schools offer — a relationship that has stabilized higher education for at least a century. Yet if done right — a big if, as recent events at San Jose State and Colorado State universities have shown — they may help address the quality and cost of higher education.
What’s the nature of the disruption?
For the moment, providers of MOOCs make their courses available to anyone. There is no admissions process. As in a video game, anyone can start, but you have to master levels that can include very difficult work. For the 10 percent who get to the end, the learning is real.
What about that experiment to offer dramatically reduced tuition for MOOCwork courses at Baa Ram U.? It’s even more hilarious than you can guess:
Colorado State’s Global Campus advertised last year that it would give credit to enrolled students who passed a MOOC in computer science. This would cost students $89 instead of the $1,050 for a comparable course. There were no takers. Seven additional institutions are set to make similar offerings in the coming year. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, they expect only hundreds, not thousands, of takers.
But why are prospective students so reluctant to jump on the MOOC bandwagon when 10% of them stand to learn so much? Why is it only a few tenured edupreneurs at prestigious universities who are pushing MOOCs by reassuring us that they’re inevitable “for good or ill?” But why? Santy Claus, why? Why are you taking our Christmas tree? Why? Even the not-very-intelligent commentors at the Washington Post have called bull$hit on this advertorial: my favorite is the one that says “Yeah, and blow up dolls are a good substitute for a wife…”
So, to sum it all up: we have the Lords of MOOC creation, afloat for now on some misguided venture captial (and lots of sunshine blown up the skirts of university presidents), who are giving away a product that no one seems to want to pay even $89 for, probably because only 10% of users come away with much of anything. And yet, we’re assured that this is completely”disruptive” “for good or ill” and, more importantly, “inevitable.” (My guess is that this advertorial was written for the benefit of current and future investors, and as recent history has shown, they’ll fall for anything.)
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Dow 36,000! Invading Iraq to punish the Taliban in Afghanistan makes perfect sense! Go ahead and take out that $500,000 mortgage on a $65,000 salary–you’ll flip the house and extract the cash before the balloon payment comes due! Does any of this sound familiar to any of you?
Still on the road–more when I get back to the ranch. Meanwhile, let’s see what Jonathan Rees has to say about all of this. Did you see his article in Slate this past week? If you’ve been reading Rees for a few months, you’ve probably already read previous versions of this synthesis, but it’s definitely worth a read if you have a spare 15 minutes.
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