Archive for August 3, 2018

A Rawlsian Argument to provide computing education beyond MOOCs

I’m still not moved, but the moving process is no longer consuming all my waking hours (and some of the hours when I wished I was asleep). We spent hours clearing out stuff from our house that we’d accrued over 25 years while raising three kids. We have a contract on a house in Ann Arbor, and a contract on our house in Decatur. Children have places to live, and most of their stuff is moved out of the house. We have dates for moving our stuff.

I can make some time to blog again.

Amy Bruckman and I wrote a piece for CACM that appears this month. Amy is an expert in ethical implications of computing, and I worry about MOOCs. Together, we wrote an article about the implications of John Rawls’ definitions of justice for computing education.

We used to think MOOCs were going to change higher education and would democratize education. In 2012, a reasonable person might have seen development of MOOCs as a way to bridge social and economic inequities. By creating MOOCs, CS departments could reasonably claim they were using their privilege to provide great benefit to the least-advantaged members of society.

Today, we have evidence MOOCs do not work like that.

People who take MOOCs already have access to education and tend to be wealthy.

We now know that MOOCs as we have used them so far violate Rawls’ Difference Principle—we are further advantaging the already advantaged. We have an ethical mandate to do better.

Note that there’s a typo in the CACM article: MOOC participants are .45 standard deviations wealthier than the average, not 45 standard deviations.

You can find the whole article here: Providing Equitable Access to Computing Education

It’s a particularly important article for me since it’s my first publication with a University of Michigan byline.

August 3, 2018 at 7:00 am 4 comments


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