A writer for a prominent technology-and-culture magazine recently contacted me about a piece he’s writing on the politics of MOOCs in American higher education. He’s asking some quite provocative questions about the language of “innovation,” “revolution,” and “disruption” surrounding the emergence and spread of MOOCs over the last two years, particularly as it touches on the peculiar controversy around on-line education during the leadership crisis at the University of Virginia in 2012.
During our back and forth I made the point to him that most critical coverage of MOOCs has largely ignored the experiences of the many thousands of students actually taking these on-line classes. It might be interesting, I suggested, to ask the students themselves how they view what they’re doing in relation to the controversies attending the proliferation of these courses. Are these controversies all “inside baseball,” or have they influenced the public perception of what universities are up to in their often flailing attempts to get on line in new ways? We came up with three sets of questions to pose to the students in “Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction.” I’m hoping students will post their responses in the “MOOCS and Online Learning” discussion forum on our Coursera site (the link will work only if you’re enrolled in the class), though anyone who wishes is also welcome to post responses in the Comments section below this post. Do with these questions what you will, and thanks for your interest!
- To what extent are your feelings about and experiences of MOOCs influenced by the conversations around them in journalism, higher education, etc.? Do you see MOOCs as “disruptive” or “revolutionary” to universities, whether in the United States or your own country/region?
- Do you see MOOCs as an example of “digital innovation”? In your experience, are MOOCs described (and marketed) as such an innovative technological solution that “online education” refers mostly/only to MOOCs?
- Do you believe that the time, energy, and expense universities are investing in MOOCs are justified by the supposedly experimental nature of the medium? (“It’s an experiment. We’ll see what happens.”)
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