The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform – The New Inquiry

Sam sent me a great and careful article about MOOCs,The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform. The article is a longer version of a paper given by Aaron Bady at UC Irvine as part of a panel on MOOCs and For Profit Universities. In his longer paper Bady makes a number of points:

  • We need to look closely at the rhetoric that is spinning this a “moment” of something new. Bady questions the sense of time and timing to the hype. What is really new? Why is this the moment?
  • There isn’t much new to MOOCs except that prestige universities are finally trying online education (which others have been trying since the 1980s) and branding their projects. MOOCs represent Harvard trying to catch up with the University of Phoenix by pretending they have leapfrogged decades of innovation.
  • The term MOOC was coined by in the context of an online course at the U of Manitoba. See the Wikipedia article on MOOCs. The Manitoba experiment, however was quite different. “[T]he goal of these original MOOCs was to foster an educational process that was something totally different: it would be as exploratory and creative as its participants chose to make it, it was about building a sense of community investment in a particular project, a fundamentally socially-driven enterprise, and its outcomes were to be fluid and open-ended.”
  • MOOCs are speculative bubble that will burst. The question is what will things look like when it does?
  • MOOCs are not necessarily open as many are being put on by for-profit companies. Perhaps they could be called MOCks.
  • The economics of MOOCs need to be watched. They look a lot like other dot com businesses.
  • MOOCs are the end of the change that happens when learning is in dialogue not the beginning of change. MOOCs could freeze innovation as they take so many resources to develop by so few.

Here is a  quote:

If I have one overarching takeaway point in this talk, it’s this: there’s almost nothing new about the kind of online education that the word MOOC now describes. It’s been given a great deal of hype and publicity, but that aura of “innovation” poorly describes a technology—or set of technological practices, to be more precise—that is not that distinct from the longer story of online education, and which is designed to reinforce and re-establish the status quo, to make tenable a structure that is falling apart.