“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Monday, February 25, 2013

Anti-MOOC Death Ray

I just sent these links to a colleague of mine involved in the whole MOOC business (against it, in the colleague's case). Feel free to copy and paste. 

They are very well reasoned pieces by our Ian Bogost: 

Pith lines:
"We collectively "decided" not to fund education in America. Now we're living with the consequences. Lost on those who mount such defenses is the fact that running these online courses costs more rather than less money in the short term (Georgia Tech's Coursera faculty are taking on the task on top of their normal work), and doesn't produce any direct revenue for anyone, not even Coursera."

"Citing enormous enrollment numbers against very small numbers of instructors and instructional support personnel is a common way to justify the promise of MOOCs ("Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) with 100,000+ students" is the line in the Snowbird session description). Yet, we also know that these courses also exhibit very high attrition rates, possibly as high as 97%."

"If the lecture was such a bad format in the industrial age, why does it suddenly get celebrated once digitized and streamed into a web browser in the information age?"

"The fact that two of the major players in MOOCville are private, VC-funded silicon valley companies co-founded by Stanford professors who've quit their university jobs should offer plain and obvious evidence of what's really going on. Or, as I was recently quoted an article about MOOCs in Times Higher Education, 'The purpose of a for-profit that is venture-backed in Silicon Valley is to grow as quickly as possible and to exit providing a considerable financial benefit for its investors—and that goal may not be compatible with education.' "

"One night recently, it was raining hard as I drove to pick my son up from an evening class at the Atlanta Ballet. Like many cities, Atlanta's roads are in terrible condition after years of neglect. Lane divider paint is so worn as to become invisible in the wet darkness, potholes litter the pavement. But this time the danger was magnified: on large stretches of Interstates 75 and 85, two major freeways that intersect the city, the streetlights were completely extinguished.

"There are ways to fix such dangers. One option would involve allocating public funds to repair and revitalize the infrastructure in question. Of course, such services are difficult in an era of reduced tax revenues and massive public resistance to financial support of infrastructural projects in the first place. So another option might involve hiring private companies -- not to repair the broken roads and streetlamps, but to provide separate paved surfaces and illumination services to those who might choose to drive in conditions of wetness and/or darkness. After all, we're living in an age when traversable roads have become fiscally unviable. What choice do we have?

"Such is essentially the logic the state of California has adopted in its plan to offer online classes in the California State University System, a deal the state has struck with "massively open online course" (MOOC) provider Udacity."

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