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Is MOOC more than just a buzzword? | Higher Education Network | Guardian Professional


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Yes, higher education is changing. Its funding and knowledge structures and its place in culture have shifted drastically in the past generation or two, on multiple axes and in often-conflicting directions. It's under intense pressure to function in an increasingly corporate fashion, with increasingly little public funding. Globalization and the push for participatory collaboration all challenge the role of the traditional classroom. Things fall apart, we hear from every corner. The centre cannot hold.

The problem with apocalyptic thinking is that it predisposes us towards simple solutions and salvation narratives, even in complex situations. If we're interested in being part of the conversation around the future of higher ed, we need to stop talking about MOOCs as buzzwords and begin talking about the interests that determine the specific shape of particular MOOCs as they emerge.

MOOCs will not inherently gut faculty positions in higher education. They do not have automation and robot grading built into their conceptual structure. They certainly offer the capacity for these things, if backed by scale and prestige and neoliberal values of efficiency and market niche domination: they offer the potential to look like disruptive innovation while consolidating the market interests of elite brands within higher education. Udacity's partnership with Pearson? Perhaps a case in point.

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Education technology will become the next healthcare industry and industrial-military complex.

I'm rooting for those passionate about helping the students -- especially those who are marginalized.

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