Archive for November 16, 2012
Clay Shirky’s essay on MOOCs has made the best case that I’ve seen on why the MOOCopalypse is coming. At Georgia Tech, we’ve used an analogy about universities and higher education as being like Borders. Borders went under quite quickly, in the face of Amazon.com and Kindles. But there are too many differences in that analogy, e.g., Borders and Amazon sold the exact same product. Shirky’s essay hits home. Napster wasn’t better than CD’s, but it was free and easily accessible. Napster was shutdown, but only after the damage was done. Expectations changed, and the mechanisms were then established to create the legitimate, for-cost iTunes Store (and Pandora and Last.fm and…) which put the final nails in the CD’s coffin. The key lesson is: Access was more important than quality. Shirky’s suggestion is that, once established as being available and acceptable, then MOOCs (even when they’re not free, after Udacity, Coursera, edX) could put the nails in the university coffin.
It’s been interesting watching this unfold in music, books, newspapers, TV, but nothing has ever been as interesting to me as watching it happen in my own backyard. Higher education is now being disrupted; our MP3 is the massive open online course (or MOOC), and our Napster is Udacity, the education startup.
We have several advantages over the recording industry, of course. We are decentralized and mostly non-profit. We employ lots of smart people. We have previous examples to learn from, and our core competence is learning from the past. And armed with these advantages, we’re probably going to screw this up as badly as the music people did.
Thanks to Mark Miller for sending this — what a great idea! I know that others have a BA in CS, but I particularly like the argument that they’re making, that this is about incorporating computing into other disciplines. And I saw on Leysia Palen’s Facebook posting that the new degree was approved.
The proposed program would offer a bachelor of arts in computer science to suit students who, for example, are majoring in geography but want the skill set to develop map databases or who are studying speech, language and hearing and could benefit from building voice-recognition software.
If approved, arts and sciences students would be able to double-major to combine a liberal arts degree program with the BA degree in computer science. The computer science curriculum would still be taught by engineering faculty members.