MOOC advocates meet a major roadblock

Observers say the San Jose State University (SJSU) faculty backlash against the school’s adoption of massive open online courses (MOOCs) could set a precedent for blocking technology adoption in higher education.

SJSU faculty want more say in the school’s technology initiatives.

SJSU’s Academic Senate voted overwhelmingly Nov. 18 to request an independent review of the university’s governance after many faculty members publicly opposed the school’s planned use of the experiment MOOC platform that has put SJSU at the forefront of MOOC experimentation.

Faculty leaders have said the Academic Senate should have a say in all technology-related university partnerships.

SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi said in a statement that administrators would “do all we can to support the Chancellor’s Office in responding to this request.”

Once heralded by California governor as a “game changer” for higher education, SJSU’s MOOC initiative was put on hold in August when as much as 75 percent of students were failing some of the courses. Faculty members lashed out at the online courses as a watering down of the university’s degree programs.

Michelle Rhee-Weise, senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, said a move toward faculty governance would serve as a considerable roadblock for educational technology.

“Faculty governance is often at odds with rapid innovation. Often when you get a consensus among faculty, the consensus is to maintain the status quo,” she said. “It’s very difficult to enact change to any real extent. … It’s a little disappointing to see the extreme reaction on the part of the faculty. It’s going to be very difficult for the university to brace for change if they’re so resistant to the idea of experimentation.”

Educators can join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #eCNMOOCs.