Gates: Community colleges should give MOOCs a try

Bill Gates has a message for community colleges: there’s a spot waiting for them on the massive open online course (MOOC) bandwagon.

At a gathering of community college leaders, Bill Gates urges the educators to experiment with MOOCs. Many of those at the two-year institutions remain skeptical.

It’s not often that the phrases MOOC and community college are paired together, and when they are, it’s not usually with a positive connotation.

Some detractors of the online courses have derided MOOCs for what they feel is an overreliance on “elite” schools. But if public and state colleges have felt short-shrifted by the experimental type of online learning, community colleges have been all but ignored — to the point that some educators at two year institutions have written off the online courses altogether.

Gates, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft who famously dropped out of college, offered a dissenting opinion last week at the Association of Community College Trustees Leadership Congress in Seattle. Gates urged campus leaders and instructors there to try their hand at MOOCs.

“I’d be the first to say that this is the period of experimentation,” he said. “But as a community, we will learn much faster if people jump in and engage in this experimentation.”

Gates compared the video lecture aspect of MOOCs to the advent of recorded music. Concerts did not simply disappear because people could now listen to songs at their own leisure, he argued. Recorded music and live performances found a way to complement and enhance each other.

Similarly, instructors will not disappear either, he said. Instead, the best of a teacher’s lectures will be recorded, freeing up time that would normally be spent replicating a similar lesson year after year, and allowing students to watch the talks over and over.

See Page 2 for reaction to Gates’ remarks from community college leaders.

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