More or Less Right On

Jonathan Rees, commenting on Coursera’s Daphne Koller’s comment that cognitive learning can only be taught at actual, real-life universities:

So pardon me if I’m less than impressed by Koller’s new-found defense of face-to-face interaction between professors and students. Say what you will about Sebastian Thrun. At least his company will soon only be shortchanging customers who won’t be wiped out by the experience.

It’s all about what Rees calls, after George W. Bush (!), “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”  MOOCS have failed to show that they educate much of anyone, even people who already have university degrees.  They’ve failed in the face of their low standards and their budget pricing (even free is too much to pay for most students).

So is it even that they’re free and require no work they have failed, or is it because they require absolutely zero commitment or resources by the students that they’ve failed?  People know the value of something they can get for nothing, and it’s so close to nothing that they can’t even be bothered to show up for the canned lectures.

5 thoughts on “More or Less Right On

  1. This semester one class has 60 student; it has a history of 15-20 students the last ten years. A third of the student don’t understand English. That complements that fact that don’t understand what they say either.

    They might as well stay at home doing the MOOC thing.


  2. Koller says,

    The best place to acquire those is by coming and getting an education at the best universities.

    The best. For the rest, is it still MOOCs, does she mean?


  3. Good pickup, Z, but who the frick CARES what Koller really means? She, Thrun, and the other edupreneurial imagineers have been taken far, far too seriously as it is.

    They are clowns. We know what works. For the most part, prospective university students and their parents know what works. But it’s not (necessarily) digitally-enabled or technologically sophisticated, and so therefore it’s very difficult to “monetize” and deploy for profit.

    Government and wealthy philanthropic organizations have traditionally played a large role in subsidizing education in the past 200 or so years because it’s expensive. But shouldn’t it be?


  4. There really does seem to be a lot of expectation-lowering going on in this particular sub-sector of the bubblicious, technocratic West Coast playpen. Thrun, now Koller; Stanford wants to take the name MOOC back from its offspring. Outside of that niche, in places where nobody pretends its about “disrupting” anything more serious than traditional ways of sending pictures of your favorite tropical birds to your favorite college friends, the word is that it’s “almost like 1999 all over again.” I think MOOCs should reposition themselves as something like libraries. Swing through, take off your coat, browse this shelf, graze that section, who cares about “completion” rates, as long as everybody learns something or other. Maybe we’ll get to that “bless us, one and all” moment before this season is out.


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