28. august 2013

The Year of the MOOC?

The book – the old-fashioned paper book – was the original MOOC app. Then again, no. A book is not a course. A library is not a university. And so a library of online learning resources is not an online university. MOOC’s are going to help people who are self-motivated and already know how to learn. They will help those who can already help themselves.

I realize these MOOC’s are trying to semi-interactive. They aren’t just old-fashioned courseware – not just a database of webcast lectures you can download as mp3s. Obviously this means that MOOC’s have to be the new frontier of social networking. Some kind of peer-to-peer bootstrapping, with lots of students helping each other help themselves, because there’s no way one instructor (or just a few) can individually help every student, once you scale up past a certain point. But this still requires the students to be mature and self-motivated, as learners, to start with.

This is such a huge number of people – especially globally – that it’s great news, all in all. But it leaves a lot of people behind – students better served by a more traditional college experience. But, then again, it’s paradoxical to say that MOOC’s are for advanced students, whereas meatspace college is more remedial, in a disciplinary sort of way. (Poor kid, he has to go to Harvard because he’s not ready for Coursera!) College is for students who can’t yet help themselves, don’t know how to study, don’t know enough to know what they want, or what they should want, to learn. They need to be more or less locked into an environment where they will be induced to learn how to learn. Which is, after all, what college is supposed to teach.

Crooked Timber

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