Goodbye Faculty: What’s the point of a University anyway?

by Tom Abel

La poule aux oeufs d’or 1905 movie poster (goose with the golden eggs)

Goodbye faculty, hello neoliberal MOOCs.  I read a NY Times article last week and was clued into a recent ‘innovation’ in education which may soon be sweeping the globe.  Massively Open Online Courses or MOOCs are being produced and promoted by some of the most prestigious universities in the world, such as a just announced MIT-Harvard ‘nonprofit’ partnership, and another with Stanford, Princeton, UPenn, and Michigan.  MOOC courses include video lesson segments, embedded quizzes, immediate feedback and student-paced learning, and most so far have been produced in the areas of engineering, computers, software, etc, but courses in all fields are clearly coming.  Most of the article is techy and upbeat, but they let this quote slip in.  George Siemens, a MOOC pioneer ominously said, “But if I were president of a mid-tier university, I would be looking over my shoulder very nervously right now, because if a leading university offers a free circuits course, it becomes a real question whether other universities need to develop a circuits course.”  Get it?  This is the end of universities as we know them.  A few top universities produce coursework for the world and there’s no need for any of the rest of you out there.  Still, the reporter tries to keep it positive and ends with this quote, “What’s still missing is an online platform that gives faculty the capacity to customize the content of their own highly interactive courses.”  That’s right, we’ll still need you to ‘customize’ the MOOC course for your classrooms.

So I started to search for articles on MOOCs.  It’s all tech hype and whiz-bang.  I could find nary a discouraging word.  And I certainly could not find what I was really looking for, which is the corporate strategy behind all of this.  Why are the big boys interested?  I have some of my own ideas that I will try to relate and that refer particularly to issues of peak and descent. Continue reading Goodbye Faculty: What’s the point of a University anyway?