Union concerned with New York MOOC expansion

A plan to enroll 100,000 New York college students in massive open online courses (MOOCs) without increasing faculty has drawn criticism from a union leader who described MOOCs as “experimental.”

SUNY was one of several university systems to sign on with Coursera.

Officials from the State University of New York (SUNY) system announced in June that schools would partner with MOOC platform Coursera to serve 100,000 students in for-credit classes.

Frederick Kowal, president of the 35,000-member United University Professions (UUP) — a union representing 35,000 academic and professional faculty — said SUNY’s agreement with Coursera represented a weakening of academic standards and a watering down of classroom lessons.

“UUP is concerned about the quality of credit-bearing MOOCs and the impact that offering them would have on teaching and learning within the SUNY system,” Kowal said in a union statement. “UUP is concerned that the overuse of MOOCs will dilute the overall quality of a SUNY education.”

Kowal, as many MOOC skeptics have pointed out, said low MOOC pass rates — which hover around 10 percent — should give SUNY officials pause. Kowal has been in talks with SUNY officials as the state system lays out plans for MOOC implementation.

Denyce Duncan Lacy, director of communications for UUP, said colleges and universities should have a much better understanding of how — and if — students learn in MOOCs before offering the massive courses for college credit.

“People should know we’re not opposed to online learning, but MOOCs are experimental, and we don’t want our students to be experimented on,” Duncan said. “We want to know more about MOOCs and their effectiveness.”

See Page 2 for details on other state university systems have signed on with Coursera…

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