Are Massive Open Online Courses A “Flop”?

Career College Central summary:

  • With a front-page article on 11 December, the New York Times joined other publications in reconsidering general enthusiasm about massive open online courses, or MOOCs. A year ago, the Times published a 2600-word overview with the headline “The year of the MOOC.” The courses “have been around for a few years as collaborative techie learning events,” it said, “but this is the year everyone wants in.” Near the end the article enthused, “The line between online and on campus is already blurring.”
  • By early 2013, the Times was energetically affirming that blurring, including in a front-page article. Tom Friedman predicted in his Times column, “Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world's biggest problems.” But two days after that column appeared, the Times published a set of five letters, all from academics. H. Kim Bottomly, president of Wellesley College, called Friedman's optimism “well founded” and predicted that MOOCs “will improve the world in many ways.” But the four others argued that drawbacks limit MOOCs’ promise.
  • Now the Times front page has focused on those drawbacks in the 11 December piece “After setbacks, online courses are rethought.” It begins this way: "Two years after a Stanford professor drew 160,000 students from around the globe to a free online course on artificial intelligence, starting what was widely viewed as a revolution in higher education, early results for such large-scale courses are disappointing, forcing a rethinking of how college instruction can best use the Internet."

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