Unspoken concerns about MOOCs

Once a technology exists, there is no going back. MOOCs are here, and schools want to avoid the embarrassment of  dusty educational formats, The Society Pages reports. Nobody wants to get stuck holding a floppy disk in a cloud computing era. … This tension I’ve just described, between access and innovation on one hand, and richness and depth on the other, is well worn. Concerns are rooted fully in the interests of students, learning, and the larger social good. I argue further, however, that there is a second tension. One less often (if ever) articulated. Another source of worry and discomfort as MOOCs make their way more emphatically onto the educational landscape. Namely, it is the tension between accessible education for all, and a loss of identity, coupled with a shifting path in the life course, one which potentially does away with that liminal time-out space currently occupied by 4-5 undergraduate years. This is a discomfort born out of the decentralization and disbursement of knowledge in ways that no longer necessarily require physical co-presence or tightly woven institutions. … Where one went to school sits at the top of the CV or resume. Students, alumni, and their families purchase clothing, bumper stickers, and other displayable identity markers with the university name and logo. Colleges and universities are not simply a means to an end (i.e. the route to knowledge and a degree), but part of who a person is, personally and professionally.

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