This quotation is the crux on which the MOOC I’m taking is built. It really is a "meta" MOOC – a MOOC about MOOCs, and their place in the future of higher education. The Duke University professor who teaches the course, Cathy Davidson, discusses her own skepticism about MOOCs in this blog post. Her own critical view, she writes, as well as a desire to confront and possibly debunk some myths about MOOCs, was her very incentive to create one.
I already had in mind the title for this blog post when I came across the same phrase in Professor Davidson's article. It is simple, of course, even obvious, yet it is deceptively easy to criticize something we have never tried and have only a faint idea about. This is not to say that I will come out of the next several months -- during which I’ll be taking the MOOC, teaching a fully online class for the first time, and participating in a “blended” (mostly online) professional development seminar – with only positive comments to make. I am only a couple weeks in and some aspects of this kind of learning and teaching already feel very frustrating. I believe there are solutions to the problems, but they are not simple. In addition, I must admit that I miss face-to-face teaching and it feels disappointing, for lack of a better word, to not be able to meet either my classmates or my students in a traditional classroom setting.
That said, I want to remain optimistic and open-minded as these weeks progress. MOOCs’ supporters are still fervent, despite the criticisms they have face. Coursera’s co-founder Daphne Koller claims, ““We need a way to integrate education much more deeply into the fabric of our lives in a lifelong way.” she says. “And that’s what we’re doing.” EdX’s Anant Agarwal is no less enthusiastic about the innovations that are possible in education, though he offers a somewhat more balanced perspective: “If you take MOOC technology and blend it with in-person class help, we can achieve the blended model, which is even better and can improve campus education." He goes on to describe a situation in which courses are not fully online, but where education is more interactive, student-centered, and tailored to the individual learner.
I'm interested in seeing for myself which of the selling points hyped by MOOC proponents are truly convincing, and how this new kind of learning can be adapted and integrated into my own teaching practice.