Thursday, October 17, 2013

Faculty Organizations Take on MOOCs

This article published by Campus Technology illustrates a growing anti-MOOC sentiment among faculty across public higher education. While on the one hand, there is legitimate concern for the privatization and the quality of online programs, aiming the 'quality control' issue at MOOCs as a movement—and online learning in general—seems disingenuous to me.

I don't believe it's appropriate here to throw the baby out with the bathwater with wholesale condemnation of the MOOC movement and online learning in general. While I understand the threats that the open education movement represents to public higher education in general, I believe there is great potential for the revitalization of public higher education to be realized through the thoughtful integration of open educational resources—especially MOOCs and their wide-scale accessibility—into the teaching and learning we do at public colleges and universities.

Fighting against online education and MOOCs will not serve these faculty opponents well in the long run, I predict. As long as we view public higher education and the MOOC movement as mutually exclusive, someone has to win and someone has to lose. Neither holds enough cards to claim a winning hand since traditional education has become so expensive and out of reach for so many, and in many public higher ed environments, technological integration is woefully absent. On the other hand, what MOOCs offer in affordability and accessibility cannot compensate for the limited human interaction they offer. So what's a learner to do? If I were shopping for a degree, I would choose an environment where my traditional human faculty have chosen to embrace technology and open access education, and where I would have access to the best of both worlds. The universities and faculty who make that choice for integration of traditional and online/technology-based learning will reap the greatest rewards in terms of enrollment, retention and learning outcomes. And then we have to consider our charge for preparing our learners for the real-world workforce that awaits them.

Although the private e-learning sector arguably has questionably high influence in the movement, I don't believe that privatization is really the core issue in this debate. Before we decide who else to invite to the table, we have to first decide if we ourselves are going to accept the invitation to step into the exhilarating-albeit-sometimes-scary world of new millennial e-learning and MOOCs.

The water is rising, though. And I really don't think there's going to be any option for going back.

What do you think?

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