MOOCs or BOOKs

[So maybe “very light” doesn’t really mean “non-existent.”]

This paragraph is from yet another Thomas Friedman op-ed gushing over the revolutionary, disruptive, transformational possibilities MOOCs present:

“Therefore, we have to get beyond the current system of information and delivery — the professorial “sage on the stage” and students taking notes, followed by a superficial assessment, to one in which students are asked and empowered to master more basic material online at their own pace, and the classroom becomes a place where the application of that knowledge can be honed through lab experiments and discussions with the professor.”

Okay, now read the same paragraph with one tiny alteration:

“Therefore, we have to get beyond the current system of information and delivery — the professorial “sage on the stage” and students taking notes, followed by a superficial assessment, to one in which students are asked and empowered to master more basic material [from books] at their own pace, and the classroom becomes a place where the application of that knowledge can be honed through lab experiments and discussions with the professor.”

So what am I missing? Or, is it retrograde of me to ask?

It seems to me that the cheapest, most effective tool to fulfill the model he envisions may still be the book, not the MOOC.

9 thoughts on “MOOCs or BOOKs

  1. Just like the good old days, in which we were told by the professor to read/learn all the basic material outside of class because he wasn’t going to take up valuable class time teaching stuff we could get on our own. It didn’t work well then and I am guessing it will work even less well, now, even if BOOK is much better and cheaper than MOOC.

    One, learning is a communal activity requiring among other things, a teacher’s presence and intimacy. Have we teachers learned nothing from Parker Palmer? Two, Friedman is bizarrely out of touch with the cultural realities of contemporary college students. What!!?? Spend time out of class doing required and real class work that’s not even a “gradable” assignment?? Is that going to get me a better job?? Ever witness a classroom of truly dumbfounded students who now know not to take you seriously?

  2. The first problem is that people are even debating ‘this way or that way’ when the real question is ‘what is the best way for you to learn?’. Some people learn better in a classroom environment. Others learn better by reading, and yet still others learn best by just doing. Current educational systems do not consider the different ways in which people learn and lump everyone into ‘this is how we teach, so you must learn it.”and yet this does not even come close to how we really do learn at all. Once this has been addressed, THEN the educational system will be a benefit. Right now, it is more of a hindrance(I won’t even bother getting into the cost of such) than a benefit. Free education (places like khanacademy.org) will only grow in popularity and reputation, not to mention credentials.

  3. A lot of MOOCs are free. Check out, for example, https://www.coursera.org/ You only pay if you want to get certification (between $30-100) if you want that. As I understand it, some of the courses require books or readers, some don’t. Some courses are entirely online, but with real-time online discussion, to which the professor responds in lecture.

    Imagine this: you’re an out-of-work student living in some small town in central California, and you need to upgrade your computer skills. Suddenly, you can take computer programming courses for FREE from Stanford or Harvard professors (and faculty from many other major universities), and only have to pay for exams and certification. Some courses set up discussion forums, to which the professor can respond during lecture — including to questions you have raised. You don’t have to spend money for gas or tuition. Maybe your mom got ill in the middle of the first course, and you had to drop out to take care of her. You can take the course again next semester and it will have no negative impact on your budget. It’s just another alternative for people who don’t have the resources to pay for an expensive university education, and who don’t want to put themselves into debt with student loans.

  4. Yes, books could very well fit in developed, access-friendly worlds but the idea of the information being available [online] anywhere on the earth is something that will inevitably happen, so why not jump start there?

    Even the newspapers are moving online, there’s little support to survive if you’re not online, and that’s coming from someone who still loves the feel of a physical book. :)

  5. I agree that books could fulfill this need for resources, but one of the above commenters makes an excellent point in that some MOOCs are free – all you need is the computer at your local library. I wonder, though, why you don’t push on the very faulty assumption that is at the heart of this quotation and the sort of thinking behind the quotation – who is still teaching via a “sage on the stage” lecture model, why are they doing so, and why have they not moved to a more constructivist approach to teaching? I don’t know many professors who teach in the way it seems MOOC-pushers assume they do, and if they don’t, it undermines much of the reason for the MOOC’s implementation.

  6. A very interesting piece here…. I completely agree- having written a similar piece, I contemplated writing about the MOOC also. Whilst there may well be many benefits of the new initiative behind them, I can’t help but feel we’re trying too hard to keep up with the times!

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