15th 2013
Another reason to question the Lords of MOOC Creation

Posted under: American history, students, technoskepticism, wankers

Go read Michael Lind on the inevitable fallibility of our modern political and media elites.  I think there’s something in there that speaks to the pump-and-dump cycle we’re seeing now with MOOCs:

The politicians and pundits who get the most attention — at least for a while — are those who treat a genuine but limited and reversible trend as evidence of imminent utopia or approaching apocalypse. Such hype is then magnified by an infotainment industry that promotes drama and penalizes nuance.

.       .       .       .       .        .
When it comes to the hype market, you will seldom err by betting against it. When everybody who is anybody in politics and the press agrees on something, it’s time to raise some doubts. 

Ya think?

Let’s call it Friedman’s Law:  anything that Thomas Friedman promotes as the solution to anything is likely only to exacerbate the original problem.  (Global jihad?  Well, suck on this.  College too expensive and too unresponsive to our immediate needs?  Let’s sign up our weakest, least supported students to watch lectures online and to grade one another!)


13 Responses to “Another reason to question the Lords of MOOC Creation”

  1. Indyanna on 15 Aug 2013 at 9:47 am #

    Nobody ever got run out of town on a rail in this country for penalizing nuance, I know that much. But for the honor of the thing, though, give me the old time bricks-and-mortar anytime. (Can anyone imagine Daniel Webster saying to the Supreme Court: “It is only a small MOOC, with 75,250+/- unique registrants, but there are those who love it…” ? !?).

    As far as signing up, Times is a’moving to enroll for the upcoming Kollerfest at the Times Center next month. Or at least you can sign up to (hopefully, the ad is ambiguous) “receive an invitation” to the event. You can even buy a “reproduction certified game-used indoor birch tree” on the way out of the event.

    Possibly also relevant in this context would be a piece buried in Section C of today’s Times on one Evgeny Morozov, billed as “The Internet’s Verbal Contrarian.” His latest book is said to be called _To Save Everything, Click Here_.

  2. Contingent Cassandra on 15 Aug 2013 at 11:04 am #

    And of course these people (along with the financial wizards who make money by trading instruments with increasingly little connection to any real-world phenomenon) are the ones who hold an increasingly large portion of the country’s wealth. Ugh.

    One possible small ray of hope: I’ve noticed that much of the coverage of Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post praises him as a long-range thinker/investor, with little patience for Wall Street’s demands for instant results. Of course, there are plenty of other, less favorable things one could say about him, but I’ll take any sign that long-range thinking might be coming into fashion.

  3. koshembos on 15 Aug 2013 at 11:47 am #

    The 1st paragraph in the quote is wide enough to send Assad’s army through it. Ultra-generalizations scare me. The 2nd paragraph is on the money.

    Beating, feverishly, my own drum, Friedman was considered an oracle on the Middle East way back in the 70s-80s. Hey, the guy lived on a kibbutz and then served a decade in Lebanon and Israel, he IS an expert. Then, I read his book. Does Mars have a Middle East? Friedman didn’t have a clue.

    So, now we know that most columnists are ignorant, empty suits, worthless and go to your dictionary for ten other adjectives.

  4. Susan on 15 Aug 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Well, we might just note that as scholars, we tend to be suspicious of the conventional wisdom!

  5. Jonathan Rees on 15 Aug 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Historiann, Indyanna:

    I’ve read Morozov’s book twice actually. The first time I was so busy nodding that I missed too much stuff, and the other time for comprehension. It’s really good. Historiann is echoing one of his critiques of the Internet in general: solutionism. It works very well for MOOCs in particular too.

  6. Fratguy on 15 Aug 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    WRT the featured pundits in Lind’s article. In our household there are many rules, such as “Do not scream” and “We obey the laws of thermodynamics”. Among the oldest and most steadfast is “Nothing that comes out of David Gergen’s pie hole is to ever ever ever be believed, his judgement is beyond redemption” Cannot go into details, just trust me on this one.

  7. Z on 15 Aug 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    Students in my current MOOC say in discussion fora that HR personnel in corporations can and should find out whether there is alienated labor happening. If there is, there should be some incentivation, some way to garner more employee “buy-in” to the organization’s goals. That will be good for the employees’ health and also productivity.

    This is the quality of those who will grade me. [MOOC is currently reading Marx]

  8. Matt_L on 17 Aug 2013 at 6:48 am #

    @ Z: wow… that’s the most decontextualized misreading of Marx ever! And I teach the Communist Manifesto in three sections of Western Civ every semester!

  9. Indyanna on 17 Aug 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    “Buy in” is one piece of biz-speak that has for some reason seemingly tended to elude the stakeholder-gratifying avatars of academic manageriality. One of the most hallucinatory train rides I ever took was on a commuter line back in the 1980s just after 5 P.M. In the seat in front of me were two early-to-mid-career Reagan era corpocrats, and one of them was trying to explain to his friend the meaning of the term “buy in,” as a noun form, as in a manager trying to obtain “a buy in” from his team members. It was totally out of Abbott and Costello. Commuter II was not getting it at all, but he kept following the implicit script of the conversation that brought him back to the point where Commuter I could say (with increasing exasperation) “that’s a ‘buy-in!” It was Groundhog Day without the groundhog.

  10. Indyanna on 18 Aug 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    They must have not brought the medicine cart around today in Gainesville, if this outbreak of MOOC candor from Bernie Machen, the president of the U. of Florida, is any indication: “Most of us got into online graduate programs more from the revenue side than the service side… It was an untapped market.” (N.Y. Times, 8/18). Chomp!

  11. anonymous on 19 Aug 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Off-topic but funny:,33515/?ref=auto

  12. Historiann on 19 Aug 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    HA-hahahaha. Perfect!

  13. David McCullough beats the dead like they owe him money. : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 20 Aug 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    [...] why I find this Onion article so funny and yet feel so awkward laughing at it at the same time (h/t anonymous, who put this link in my comments yesterday.)  Historians and other humanists:  how do you feel [...]

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