Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Stories We Tell about MOOCs

In case you missed any of these brilliant essays on the narratology of MOOCs, here they are.  Read them.  Now.  I am a historian.  The stories we tell about the past define our present and future, as these writers elucidate.  Words like disruption and innovation are rhetorical choices, deployed in specific ways to specific ends.  Anyone in the education business needs to be literate in the terms of this current, very important, debate.  If anyone has suggestions to be added to this list, pass them along in the comments.

Audrey Watters,  [Expletive Deleted] Ed-Tech #Edinnovation; Coursera, Chegg, and the Education Enclosure Movement, The Myth and the Millennialism of "Disruptive Innovation"

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Talking MOOCs and 4Profits at UC Irvine

Aaron Bady, The MOOC Bubble and the Attack on Public Education; The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform; Questioning Clay Shirky

Josh Honn, On MOOCs and Against Inevitability

Jill Anderson, MOOCs, Language, and Corporatespeak

Bonnie Stewart, Not a Hand UpParticipate or Perish

Kate Bowles, The Value of Bad Ideas

Noel Jackson countering narratives about the completion rates of MOOCs; On MOOCs and Some Possible Futures for Higher Ed ("From my modest position within the ranks of MIT administration I have been glad to see great care on the part of faculty to ensure that a spirit of experimentation and exploration with regard to MOOCs remains compatible with the core principles of the university and with a residential education.")   And a project by Cathy Davidson to use the Coursera platform, the MOOC genre, to explore the limits of the form for peer-to-peer, connectivist learning.

Francisco Dao on the Fantasy Island aspects of the MOOC hype

John Maxwell on how MOOCs are really about Big Data ("Somehow, the hype around MOOCs has led us to the point where all critical sensibilities about learning, pedagogy, curriculum, student experience, privacy, research, and the role of Universities in democratic society has been thrown out the window, in favour of this fabulous bandwagon.")

Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hamphire University, on the bundling of services by private ed tech companies and Coursera's incursion into the courseware and content provider sector.

Evegeny Morozov. The Meme Hustler (not technically about MOOCs, but all about the way that language has been hijacked and redefined in these debates)

The Future of the University: A Vision 

Lisa Lane, Why DeMOOCification Won't Work

Mitch Leventhal and Ina Tang, Following the Money in Education: Private Equity and the New Educational Economy 

Jonathan Dettman, MOOCs and the Masses: Big Data and the Question of Access in Online Teaching ("As MOOCs become more widely accepted as alternatives to traditional classes, teaching itself could get outsourced (“unbundled” is the term of art) to private course providers. The consequences of such a Schumpeterian disruption are entirely unknown, so calls to slow down and get the pedagogy right are entirely welcome. But such calls will go unheeded, I fear, because a powerful set of interests has targeted higher education for “innovation” and “operational excellence,” both of which, in the Devil’s Dictionary of the MBA, mean looting.")

Jeb Bush and Randy Best predict massive disruptions in Higher Ed by 2018 (response to this essay).

Gene Powell, Chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, talk to the Texas Monthly about the future of higher education in Texas, including the prediction that 25% of all courses will be taken online (Part 1; Part 2)

Robert Kuttner, Higher Education: The Coming Shakeout

Details of the Georgia Tech/Udacity conspiracy to undermine quality education

How Online Learning is Reinventing College 

Patrick Deneen, We're All to Blame for MOOCs ("faculties have been deeply invested in the logic leading to the rise of MOOCs, and are fundamentally ill-prepared to mount a serious intellectual argument against them.")

Jeff Selingo, What We Need: Fewer Smaller Colleges, More Big Ones ("While their loss would certainly be felt in their communities and among their alumni, when it comes to the grand challenges of higher education, we can’t worry so much about small colleges. What we really need are bigger public institutions willing to serve the coming generation of students who need access to a high-quality degree.")


  1. Great resource here, Jen, thanks!

    Josh Honn's essay didn't open for me just now. Bad link?

    I put the attrition rate piece on my blog finally:

    Thanks again!

  2. Thanks; Josh Honn moved his essay to his blog so I updated that link. I'll also update the link to you piece on the attrition rate. Trying to have some sort of page where people can go and read a range of views on all of this. Feel free to pass on links!

  3. Well, if you want to include the utopians, for historical point of reference:

    Clay Shirky

    Tom Friedman

    Early on in the days of MITx furor, my colleague Ruth Perry wrote a good skeptical piece about the probable importance of MOOCs to humanities classes: