As we begin to experiment with how novel technologies might change learning and teaching, powerful forces threaten to neuter or constrain technology, propping up outdated educational practices rather than unfolding transformative ones.
All too often, during such wrenching transitions, the voice of the learner gets muffled.
For that reason, we feel compelled to articulate the opportunities for students in this brave electronic world, to assert their needs and--we dare say--rights.
We also recognize some broader hopes and aspirations for the best online learning. We include those principles as an integral addendum to the Bill of Rights below.
This apparent "openness" also effectively makes criticism impossible. When someone arrives with questions or concerns, he or she becomes a naysayer refusing to "offer solutions" given the "invitation to a conversation." This is even more infuriating for folks like Bowles, who have been having the "conversation" about different modes of learning for years. There's a false sense of novelty swirling all around MOOC mania, and novelty always benefits the most recent voice. Nobody wants to hear (or run press coverage) about how a hot new trend is really nothing new.Aaron Bady, who opposes MOOCs due to his “conservative defensiveness,” nevertheless experiences a moment of dreaming in the ongoing debate for MOOCs to reframe public education as a public works program:
At the same time, the advent of MOOC’s might have brought something to the discussion that was radically missing: the sense there is a purpose to higher education beyond credentials and profit.
But while venture capitalists are interested in MOOC’s because they want to sell these courses to universities, the thing about actually existing MOOC’s is that they actually are free to the consumers, and must be. That’s the point, and there is no MOOC without that fact. As a result, you find people thinking about how to provide education to people who couldn’t otherwise get it, and for reasons that are explicitly not about credentials or profit.
If the actual MOOC-ification of higher ed is likely to be a dead-end, in other words, MOOC’s do enable us to ask a question that we’ve often been too defensively crouched to think about: what should or could “higher education” look like, if it were stripped of its credentialing and profit-making functions? If it were free, and if it wasn’t about determining who gets jobs and who doesn’t, what would it look like?
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