Will MOOCs Make Everyone Think the Same Way?
Millions of people signed up to take a free class from the top research universities and Ivy League schools in 2012, but some higher education leaders remain skeptical of these massive open online courses, writes Tyler Kingkade on Huffington Post:
“With so many people signing up—as many as 50,000 or more to a class—some college leaders worry MOOCs could lead to the devaluing of American higher education. Lester Lefton, president of Kent State University, said as much at a recent dinner with other university presidents at the Penn Club in New York City.
‘The great thing about our higher education system, which was just shown in our election, is our politicians have all have totally different views on economics and probably because they came from a variety of different kinds of schools with a variety of different kinds of viewpoints,’ Lefton said. ‘If everybody were all to take economics 101 through a MOOC, there would be one view of economics. And I think that’s potentially dangerous, and it devalues what we have been so good at in terms of creating a real diversity of thought.’
Michael Crow, head of Arizona State University, also worries MOOCs could spread too much of the same thinking, but he believes the online courses could be a great tool when used in conjunction with other teaching methods.
‘Our objective is to create an environment in which we can create a person capable of learning anything,’ Crow said at the dinner. ‘If you’re working with that as your objective, then you need every tool, every mechanism, every means to be able to achieve that.'” (Read more here.)
Lefton’s concern seems misplaced to me. First of all, we should only hope that “everyone” in the country takes Economics 101, through a MOOC or some other means. Unless the course is overtly biased in some way, that’s basic information that everyone should have (and way too few people now do).
And second, it’s in the nature of education that people do all kinds of different things with the same information. Some students will embrace the professor’s viewpoint; some will push back against it; and some will head off in a completely different direction. I’m with Michael Crow: we need every means we can muster to effectively educate our population.