We called it: MOOCs are dead as uni disruptors, but follow the money

Jonathan Rees has a brilliant postmortem of the MOOC phenomenon and its rapid, silent demise over the past few years.  He writes:

MOOCs are dead. “How can I possibly argue that MOOCs are dead?,” you may ask. After all, to borrow the stats just from Coursera, they have: 1600 courses, 130+ specializations, 145+ university partners, 22 million learners and 600,000 course certificates earned. More importantly, it appears that Coursera has received $146.1 million dollars over the years. Even though it hasn’t gotten any new funding since October 2015, unless Coursera tries to copy “Bachmanity Insanity” (Is Alcatraz still available for parties?) the company is going to be sticking around for quite a while.

What I mean when I say that MOOCs are dead is not that MOOCs no longer exist, but that MOOCs are no longer competing against universities for the same students. Continuing with the Coursera theme here, in August they became the last of the major MOOC providers to pivot to corporate training. While I did note the departure of Daphne Koller on this blog, I didn’t even bother to mention that pivot at the time because it seemed so unremarkable, but really it is.

He goes on to note that the critique that universities aren’t educating students through large lecture courses was appropriate, but that the remedy–selling video recordings of elite uni professors lecturing–was worse than the disease.  At least you can interrupt your lecturing proffie in a RL classroom to ask for clarification or elaboration.  You know, like you can talk to people in RL versus screaming at your television or computer monitor.

I just now did a quick search for the last time I wrote about MOOCs here on the blog, and it was sixteen months ago, and even then it was just to take a victory lap over the big nothingburger MOOCs had come to.  It seems like the last time anyone took MOOCs seriously was three years ago, or in MOOC-world’s timescale, roughly around the Peace of Westphalia.  Just because Jonathan and I and other MOOC skeptics were right doesn’t mean the struggle to protect educational and humanistic values is over.  Not by a long shot: Continue reading

“An Election All About Sex & Gender.” Who ever would have predicted this?

What a surprise!

Who among us ever would have forseen this?  I’m not mocking Rebecca Traister; I truly appreciate her analysis this year and am glad she’s finally getting the teevee time she and her–well, our–ideas deserve.  Men’s marital infidelity and sexual adventurism, even sexual abuse, is fundamentally knitted into the spoils successful male pols in our republican (small-r) system have claimed since the U.S. began.

It is totally blowing our collective mind to imagine how a woman could inhabit the most important political role in our system, and our brains are being wrung of all kinds of socio-sexual anxieties around the prospect of Hillary Clinton as the next U.S. president.  She doesn’t just represent change because she has a woman’s body.  Her presidency would force us to reckon (in good and ugly ways alike) about how political power works here and what we think winning pols are entitled to.   Continue reading

WIZ 301: Defense Against the Dark Arts, or, how universal design improves our teaching

defenseagainstdarkarts

Dump the blue books!

The always-thoughtful David Perry of How Did We Get Into This Mess and on Twitter @Lollardfish) has given his last blue-book, in class, timed exam.  Those of you who know his writing will not be surprised that he’s doing this because of the inequities and exposure in-class exams mean for students with disabilities:

I’ve been inching away from the blue book for years, but it’s time to go cold turkey and match my praxis to my principles. Whatever pedagogical gains the in-class test might bring — and I’ll argue they are few and increasingly less relevant — I can no longer justify forcing people with disabilities to disclose their conditions in order to receive basic test-related accommodations.

Although protections for disabled students date back to Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act spurred widespread change throughout academe. Compliance with the ADA and with Section 504 — for any institution receiving federal funds (including financial aid) — requires providing reasonable accommodations to students with diagnosed disabilities. It’s become routine, rather than rare, for students to begin the semester by presenting their professors with documented requests for accommodation.

That it’s become routine is great but far from perfect. Not only do students have to disclose disability to their professors —who are no more immune to ableism than to any other sort of bias — but the most common form of accommodation extends the disclosure to classmates. Many students with invisible disabilities (such as anxiety disorders or ADHD) require quiet rooms and extra time to work on a test. I’m thrilled to provide both. On the other hand, when the whole class gathers to take an exam, with one student conspicuously absent, everyone notices.

Right on, David!  (Be sure to read the whole article.)  He comes to his conclusion about canning the in-class, timed exams based on his understanding of the concept of universal design.  Perry explains, “That term — coined in the 1970s around architecture and public space —advocates that systems be designed to accommodate the widest range of function and ability possible. Universal design asks us to try and build accessibility into the fabric of our institutions and culture, rather than wait until individuals make their needs known.”  I’m sure you’ve seen evidence of it in buildings of recent construction–the extra-wide doorways and hallways, the paddle-handle door pulls that have replaced traditional doorknobs because they don’t require the number of fine motor skills to operate. Continue reading

Who do faculty “work for?”

cantevenUPDATED BELOW, Sunday afternoon.

Who do college and university faculty work for? Do we work for our students? Do we work for the administrators at our institutions? If we work at public universities, do we work for the taxpayers of our states? Do we work for our colleagues? Who has a right to demand work from us?

The reason I’m asking is that last week ended for me in a faculty meeting yesterday afternoon that was billed as “important” by our department chair, because we were going to learn all about some new software that would “make it easy” to generate our CVs and our annual reports.  (I bet some of you know where this is going.) Continue reading

A (Bull$!t) Mountain of Magical Thinking

You know those old stories in which a reporter for the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune drops in on the MLA’s (Modern Language Association) or the AHA’s (American Historical Association) annual meeting, drops in on a few panels with arcane subjects or papers, and then proves his or her thesis that modern academics are completely out-of-touch intellectuals discussing easy-to-caricature topics like queering the Peabody sisters or disability and turn of the 20th century American freak shows?

Well, one of ours has gone to Davos, and comes back with a very dispiriting report on the stupidity and naivety of our supposed betters (or at least richers).  UC Santa Barbara historian of technology Patrick McCray has pubished his report on what he saw at Davos last week, and it wasn’t good.  Over on his blog, The Leaping Robot, he writes about his invitation there to give a talk, and thought he’d give the proceedings there a little more respect than that offered by said Times or Trib reporter at modern literature and history conferences:

In accepting the WEF’s invitation to Davos, I tried to put aside some of my professional skepticism or at least channel it into more productive (i.e. less snarky) channels. In other words, I sought a line between stick-in-the-mud historian barking “It’s more complicated than than!” and being a starry-eyed Kool-Aid imbiber. I wanted to find a way to reach out to Davos Man in language he/she understood. Maybe I could even help pump the stomachs, idea-wise, of those that had consumed too much innovation Kool Aid.

I called my Betazone talk “innovation’s shadow.” In the time I had, I wanted to gently question some of the concepts of a 4th Industrial Revolution. I also hoped, to pour some mild acid on the prevailing innovation-centric view of technology that gives far too much agency to entrepreneurs and other “creative disrupters.”

Continue reading

Great prediction, Carnac: a brief history of the future of online education

carnacthemagnificentOne of the great things about blogging for the better part of a decade is that you can hold people accountable for the silly things they once said, or wrote, and presumably believed.

Do you remember 2010?  Like yesterday?  Here’s columnist Froma Harrop on September 21, 2010:

Bill Gates recently predicted: “Five years from now on the Web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.”

It’s the fall semester of 2015:  are we there yet?  What does Professor Pushbutton have to say about all of this?  How ’bout them learning machines, y’all?   Continue reading