I just love these experts in “disruptive innovation” who trash learning in college classrooms and lecture halls with 15, 40, or 125 students because “all professors do is lecture,” who then turn around and brag about how scalable their educational model is because–wait for it!–it’s based on lectures! To 14,000 people who swooned like bobby-soxers fainting for Frank Sinatra.
As Phil Hill reminds us, students enter MOOCs for different reasons and therefore participate in different ways. What it does mean though is that MOOCs are not nearly as effective as actual college courses at getting students involved in every aspect of higher education. That’s why nobody I know is saying, “Kill all the MOOCs,” but they are saying don’t let MOOCs replace traditional higher education entirely because free online education isn’t there yet. I don’t think it can ever get there, at least not for humanities courses.
Carolyn Foster Segal, an English professor, slams Friedman’s argument at Inside Higher Ed.
John Warner, writing at the same website, says “Friedman has as much credibility on education as I do on dunking a basketball.” Warner writes:
Friedman’s columns on MOOCs read like infomercials, something made only more obvious by the fact that his most recent one is timed to the release of his “old friend” Sandel’s course. It seems as though Friedman has done precisely zero thinking about the impact MOOCs will have on education, or if he has done so, it is not in evidence in his writings on the subject. Friedman’s bias for big ideas and big solutions to complex problems is well on display.
I have summarized Friedman’s thoughts below so you do not have to read the op-ed. Commentary, as always, is welcome.
- Michael Sandel’s Harvard MOOC on “Justice” is so popular in Korea that he was recently invited to a Korean baseball game to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
- The world does not need teachers and professors to depart knowledge because everything is on Google.
- Residential colleges and universities will not survive unless they deliver massive online courses at lower costs.
- In this survival of the fittest world of online education if your course on economics (or any other subject) is not as good as the same course at another institution, your course (and by implication your university) is worthless. “When outstanding becomes so easily available, average is over.”
- Information should be delivered online so that class time can be used for discussion and face-to-face interaction.
I think #1 is pretty cool.
I find #2 to be a bit offensive. Historical knowledge is best disseminated through storytelling and narrative. It is not just random facts that one can find through a Google search. MOOCs may work fine in an engineering class, but they have limits when it comes to humanities-based learning.
#3 may be correct, but it is a shame. It seems that colleges with a Christian mission, like the one where I teach, must reject selling their soul to online learning. Christian higher education is incarnational–it happens in flesh and blood community. When we give that up–as Liberty University seems more than willing to do with most of their students–I am not sure what makes a college or university Christian.
#4 is sad, but probably true, although when defined this way I am not sure what the difference is between a MOOC and a textbook.
I am open, but only slightly, to #5. An online lecture, followed by a face to face discussion, might work in a history course, but I still think something is lost when students are not present, in real space, for lectures.
Maybe I will elaborate on these quick responses in another post. Stay tuned.