This morning, the Los Angeles Times published the first part of what they are labeling a Roundtable Discussion about MOOCs. Of the participants, two are faculty who have or are preparing to teach a MOOC on Coursera (Al Filreis at Penn and Cathy Davidson at Duke); one is a professor who teaches online courses at University of Illinois, Springfield (Ray Schroeder). The fourth is a scholar and cultural critic who has regularly worked to draw attention to the labor issues that are raised by the push to accredit MOOCs (Ian Bogost at Georgia Tech). In this first installment, the four faculty members issued position papers. There was essentially no engagement by the participants with the particular points raised by the other papers (outreach and increased accessibility were the themes of the first three; economic/labor implications was the theme of the fourth). Hopefully, the follow-up tomorrow will include some efforts by the three supporters of various forms of online learning to engage with the real concerns raised by Bogost. And, in turn, one hopes that there might be a way to talk about ways that the outreach and accessibility issues--both real benefits of the MOOC model--can be addressed without contributing to the ongoing efforts to outsource teaching at public colleges and universities.
MOOCs are multifaceted, with clear benefits. They are also a kind of Pandora's Box that, rightly, many are afraid to open. We seem to have a good sense of what the pros and cons are, as well as the politics around each position (including the refusal to acknowledge that the decision to teach on a MOOC platform is, in a way, already taking a position in the debate). Now we need to figure out how to move the conversation beyond this outlining of issues, to find some strategies for managing the inevitable disruption that large-scale, platform-based teaching is going to cause at once state-supported institutions.
Thank you to Allison Morris for providing me with this wonderful graphic that outlines the pros and cons of MOOCs so beautifully (graphic produced by OnlineCollegeCourses.com).