An interesting take on MOOCs

Blogger and academic Bonnie Stewart (a University of Prince Edward Island Ph.D. student) has a fascinating take on MOOCs (massive open online courses), and online education more generally. Here’s a taste:

MOOCs started, in a sense, as a recognition that the credentialing equation was hollow. The early MOOCs were actually extra-institutional: they aimed to enable learning outside the system, focusing on generating and networking knowledge. They were learning for learning’s sake.

But credentialing is where the money lies. The mainstream thrust to position MOOCs as a disruptive replacement for conventional academia allows market forces to capitalize on the old mythology of institutionalized education and its ties to social mobility.

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We need to understand this when we talk about MOOCs. MOOCs may be touted as a revolution in education, but they actually organize learning opportunities. The fact that they’re elbowing in on the ceremonial business of credentialing and therefore taking on both roles of a conventional education institution does not mean they can or will serve the societal function of educational institutions. Educational institutions have writing centres and Student Unions and myriad supports focused around helping students gain achieve the kinds of learning that count as currency and opportunity. Institutions explicitly serve the citizenry, not the market.

MOOCs offer organized, affordable learning opportunities at a mass scale, and that has a great deal of value. But MOOCs are not a system. They are not education for the masses.

It’s good stuff — read the whole thing.

In a related vein, I stumbled into the University of Venus (a project of which Stewart is apparently a part) over at Inside Higher Ed this morning as I was looking for things to post on — though I take it that it’s not just an Inside Higher Ed project. The writing is generally good, and the points are interesting. I’d urge y’all to give it a look.