MOOCs: if we’re not careful so-called ‘open’ courses will close minds

I have tried, really hard, not to write about Moocs. But I can’t keep it up forever, and what better time than the silly season to write about this phenomenon, which may transform higher education, or just turn out to be another damp squib, The Guardian reports. Moocs, for anyone who has switched off from the chattering of the policy/management class, are massive open online courses. The idea is that courses are uploaded to the “cloud” where they are available to everyone. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is credited with being first, and now some big global media companies have piled in. The catch, of course, is that credentials – which is higher education’s core business – will remain as tightly rationed as ever. So Moocs, if they ever take off, are likely to be used in two ways. The first is to fob off the “masses”. Government cuts, high fees, league-table snobbism – all point to a reinforcement of elite forms of higher education. Attempts to deliver HE-lite through further education colleges and private providers are never going to get very far. So Moocs provide the perfect cover story – “higher education for the masses” when real-world opportunities to go to university are being cut.

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