Sunday, February 23, 2014
MOOCs, education, credentials and basic research
Here's another essay investigating the MOOC issue and its relation to education. There are two points. First, that lots of what is intended when people speak of "education" is really how to effectively provide credentials that will enhance job prospects. Second, that what you learn is less important that who you meet. MOOCs may help with the first, but won't address the second. And as the second dominates in determining one's life opportunities, MOOCs will simply serve to further disadvantage the less advantaged. This, in part, reflects my own jaundiced views about MOOCs, with one more perverse twist. Should MOOCs win the day, then we might discover that we destroy research as well as education. Look at what happened to Bell Labs when we made telecommunication more efficient. A by-product of MOOCing the university might be the elimination of any venue for basic research. At least in the US and Canada, the only place basic research happens is the university and the university in the US and Canada effectively tethers undergrad instruction to a research engine. Break the bond and there is no reason to suppose that there will be no place for basic research. So, MOOCs may not only kill education (that's my hunch) but destroy basic inquiry as well.