Large public schools have a unique goal: to broadly educate citizens in a variety of subjects, at an affordable cost, The Huffington Post reports. While some students pay full price for their education, higher education is typically subsidized through a variety of sources, including private funding, research grants, philanthropic fellowships, and — of course — taxes. As would be expected, then, the landscape of higher education becomes a political battleground, with multiple opinions and values creating complexity and undue bureaucracy. Across the nation, higher education has become the main stage for an ideological conversation concerning the cost of a degree, the amount of time students should and do take to graduate, and their social contribution, in terms of employment, upon graduation. In the modern environment technology is at the heart of this debate. It’s common to hear that digitization and connectivity, open access to content, and various delivery platforms will serve to democratize learning, reduce costs, and improve graduation rates. The Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) has been offered as the silver bullet to astronomical student debt, miserable graduation rates, poor student performance, disproportionate student to teacher ratios, and poor faculty performance. Much of the debate of MOOCs surrounds a single point: whether or not the computer is a good delivery mechanism for learning, and if it can replace face-to-face instruction.
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