The recent announce­ment from the Cal­i­fornia State Uni­ver­sity System regarding its embrace of edX mas­sive open online courses (MOOCs) is inter­esting and depressing at the same time. As with many aspects of the MOOC phe­nom­enon, it comes pack­aged with good and bad aspects bun­dled up together. Instruc­tors will offer a “spe­cial ‘flipped’ ver­sion of an elec­trical engi­neering course … where stu­dents watch online lec­tures from Har­vard and MIT at home.” So the good is the flipped part because it’s more inter­ac­tive and dynamic and there’s less lecture-​​based didac­ti­cism in the class­room due to watching videos at home? Really? The 1970s just called: they want their Open Uni­ver­sity courses back.

This model per­haps moves the Cal State system for­ward as it offers more acces­si­bility to con­tent for working adults in a hybrid format. I wish they would just step away from the MOOC ter­mi­nology, which is, let’s be honest, copying and lending out a video­tape in another name. MOOCs have been so beaten up and stolen for self-​​serving means that the orig­inal premise has been lost. As Stephen Downes, one of the fore­fa­thers of orig­inal MOOCs, stated in a recent blog, “These argu­ments miss the point of the MOOC, and that point is, pre­cisely, to make edu­ca­tion avail­able to people who cannot afford to pay the cost to travel to and attend these small in-​​person events. Having one instructor for 20–50 people is expen­sive, and most of the world cannot afford that cost.”



Kevin Bell is the exec­u­tive director for online cur­riculum devel­op­ment and deploy­ment at North­eastern University’s Col­lege of Pro­fes­sional Studies. This essay is adopted from a posting at the blog Aspire.

Read the article at Inside Higher Ed →