MOOC Words: Philosophers Respond

A philosophy blog I read, Leiter Reports, has an interesting thread on MOOCs and their discontents. Rebecca Kukla, a Georgetown Prof, and guest blogger, opened the topic as she is doing a MOOC at her institution.

Many familiar issues from other reporting and commentary on MOOCS: IP and editorial control/ownership, equity, future of f2f, pedagogical concerns,, but exceptionally well expressed. One of the comments mentions David Gelerntner predicting a lot of this in 1984–a claim I need to research. Anand Vaidya, among the profs who objected to the distribution of the Michael Sandel Justice course via Harvardx, weighs in too.

The thread is here http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2013/08/ethical-reflections-on-mooc-making.html

Some interesting bits:

Kukla’s prompt:

In short, I think that when it comes to MOOCs we need to be having hard conversations about intellectual property, ownership of the means of production, privacy, and other complicated issues in applied ethics. And I am sure there are other hard conversations to be had as well. Mostly, my sense is that our technological capacity here is outpacing our capacity to establish thoughtful practical norms and ethical constraints on the use of this technology. Thoughts?

Part of Vaidya’s post

One point of our letter (whether or not it was clear) is that faculty with the relevant expertise in an area should have the right to be involved in the conversation and decision over whether using a MOOC at their institution for the purposes of educating the students at their university is in fact a good thing. We were not consulted in an advisory capacity over whether Justice should be taught through a MOOC, nor were we asked to make one as a way of improving education. We are against the idea that university administrators should have the power to override faculty expertise and consultation in determining course content for students. Faculty are charged with the task of debating and deciding what is best for the student population…

One thing that occurs to me is that somehow MOOCS have become a sort of “fetish object” for a range of disparate issues in education, and maybe even society at large. They are interesting in themselves, I admit, but the intensity and volume of discussion seems to me wildly disproportionate. They are vessel into which a bunch of worries, about ethics, the purpose of higher education, ownership, control, access, technology can be poured, most avidly by those who haven’t ever taken or taught an online course and have no intention of ever doing so. I’m guessing Stanley Fish falls into that category, and he added his bleating, amusing if garbled, to the fray in a NYTimes op-ed a few days back.

He closes by railing generally against social media courtesy of a bad 90s film:

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 5.56.47 PM

“See how isolating and empty modern life has become is the acidly comic message of the director [of Denise Calls Up]. Isn’t that great and can we please have more of it is the messianic message of Daphne Koller. O brave new world.”

I guess he won’t be accepting my FB effort to friend him any time soon. 😦

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