The Unsustainable MOOCiversity
I have a post-it on my monitor with a quote from Alan Kay: “You can fix a clock, but you have to negotiate with a system.” I was reminded of that in reading the below essay. I have been worried about the sustainability of the (lack of a) revenue model for MOOCs, but this essay goes further. If we destroy the universities, who makes the next generation of MOOCs? There are ramifications of the changes that are being proposed for using MOOCs as a replacement for our current higher education system.
Failing to account for, and pay for, the continuation and reproduction of a necessary system isn’t economic rationality; it isn’t a hard-nosed commitment to making the tough choices; it’s the exact opposite. It’s living as if there is no future, no need to reproduce the systems we have now for the future generations who will eventually need them. The fantasy that we could MOOCify education this year to save money on professor labor next year, and gain a few black lines in the budget, ignores the obvious need for a higher educational system that will be able to update, replenish, and sustain the glorious MOOCiversity when that time inevitably comes. Who is supposed to develop all the new and updated MOOCs we’ll need in two, five, ten, twenty years, in response to events and discoveries and technologies we cannot yet imagine? Who is going to moderate the discussion forums, grade the tests, answer questions from the students? In what capacity and under what contract terms will these MOOC-updaters and MOOC-runners be employed? By whom? Where will they have received their training, and how will that training have been paid for? What is the business model for the MOOC — not this quarter, but this decade, this century?