The Tsunami That Wasn’t: Lessons from the Year of the MOOC




Massive Open Online Courses were the first attempt by tech companies and university administrators to use technology to render faculty obsolete.  The companies that organized MOOCs when this term first became widely known in 2012 still exist.  However, you can see in their marketing and in their current organizational structures that MOOCs are now the almost exclusive domain of students with no other choice for higher education because students prefer to learn in a classroom, face-to-face with their teachers.  Despite their failure to change higher education forever, MOOCs have become just the first of many efforts to use technology to de-skill college teaching.  Therefore, it heeds us all to understand what was bad (and maybe even a little bit good) about MOOCs.  I’ll explain this by combining a little bit of my personal history of being on the digital frontlines of MOOC criticism and lessons that I’ve learned working on faculty development (which has included working with Reclaim Hosting) over the last decade.  

My argument will be that any professor that is willing to learn at least a little bit about educational technology can employ that technology in ways that will make their role as teachers more important, not less so.  In doing so, professors can ward off entrepreneurial attempts to make them obsolete by demonstrating that quality online education is dependent upon their active involvement and expertise.  By becoming technological gatekeepers rather than victims, faculty can become the beneficiaries of the efficiency gains made possible by open-source web tools.  No professor should let some faceless corporation that doesn’t really have the best interests of them or their students in mind obliterate their jobs.  If faculty want to guarantee that the next campus web isn’t as terrible as MOOCs taking over everything would have been, they need to retool their teaching methods to take advantage of the best aspects of a wired world rather than just sticking their heads in the sand and hoping everything turns out OK.

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