Let us posit, for it is true, that for nearly any course we teach, some of our students don’t need our living presence to learn what we want them to know, to learn to do what we want them capable of doing.
How many of those students wind up stuck in our courses anyway? How many of those wind up acting out in ways small (the occasional sigh or eyeroll) or large (dominating discussion or distracting other students because they’re bored)?
For these students, the Loon happily says let there be MOOCs. It wastes less of their time and less of ours. Better still, it lets us focus on the students who do need our living presence. They certainly do exist! But so do the other sort.
The Loon casts a dubious eye on much of the MOOC triumphalism, but she’s not yet ready to call the whole thing a passing fad or a dumb idea, either. There’s a good bit we don’t yet know about how to make them work best, but we won’t find out until we try them, fail a few times, and fix what made us fail, which is exactly what the Loon sees no few MOOC experimenters doing.
(Incidentally, the Loon’s feathers are ruffled about data-management curricula again. How many of these grant-funded so-called “curricula” will be battle-tested in classrooms before they go public? No curriculum of the Loon’s has ever survived its first live experience unscathed. Since the Loon has gone about battle-testing her data-management curriculum, and is already busy revising it based on the test results, she’d bet a few fish that her wholly-unfunded efforts will be as good as or better than anything IMLS is funding, and the IMLS-funded efforts may never catch up, because the Loon has more battles planned!)
Are MOOCs yet another cynical attempt to drive down the cost of higher education? Almost certainly. Does that mean they offer no means of usefully altering it? The Loon wouldn’t go that far. If aggregating demand isn’t enough, speeding the overprepared student on her merry way may well be.
MOOCs and the overprepared student by Library Loon, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.