I did an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education on Why Universities Should Experiment With ‘Massive Open Courses’. Thanks to Jeff and Warren for the opportunity to share some of the work that Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier, Alec Couros, and a growing number of educators have engaged in over the last four years. The interview ran over 30 minutes, but was edited down to 12 minutes, so some of my discussion about the history of open courses (Wiley, Couros) was not included in the final version.
I was surprised (disappointed) to read some of the comments.There is a chasm between those who are actively experimenting with educational models and those who are focused on preserving it. This chasm is complicated by different language use and different visions. These two camps are talking past each other.
For example, in the comments I/we (those who run open courses) are presented as being corporate shills:
Not surprising that online learning is being pushed by corporate entities who smell the bottom line figures. Faculty should resist this movement at every turn. It will undermine and dilute higher education as we know it, mass producing degrees that mean nothing. This is why the liberal arts are necessary. Critical thinking skills, writing, and close reading cannot be taught in cyberspace. The movement toward degrees in “Business” and other faux disciplines was the beginning.
Huh? Corporate entities? I haven’t made money on open courses. I haven’t tried.
and in terms of engagement:
For all intents and purposes I am sitting in the middle of a massive coffee-shop or bar and in the middle of hundreds of half-baked, uninformed conversations that while they may be interesting are nevertheless, not grounded in scholarship and since the tendency is for the bloggers and tweaters to flit from conversation to conversation I have no sense of any substantial engagement with any group about any topic.
I have no illusions about open online courses being THE key to education’s problems. To even make a statement of that nature is to misunderstand the interconnectedness of complex problems. As I stated in the interview, researchers need to start experimenting with the system of education. We’re not going to think our way to educational change and reform. Meaningful reform will only come through experimentation – many models, many different approaches. When researchers don’t have answers to a problem, they start hypothesizing and running experiments. Educators and administrators need to recognize that we do not understand what an efficient education systems look like in a complex, networked, and digital world. We’re muddling through.