Cuban and MOOCs

I was asked,

I've been reading Larry Cuban's blog for a while, since his (and David Tyack's) book Tinkering Toward Utopia was required reading for a class. Sometimes I agree with his assessments, and sometimes not. I thought I'd ask for your take on Cuban's labeling MOOC's at Stanford (and other schools) as a "dumb thing." Do you think that these high-level university MOOCs are missing the whole point of the MOOC anyway?

Well his article is a sleight of hand. He gives examples of people making the same mistake over and over. But the last example is responder-responder-MOOC. But a MOOC is nothing like a student  responder system in a lecture hall. So either he misunderstands what a MOOC is, or he is deliberately misrepresenting them to take a cheap shot.

As for missing the whole point, the question is, what were the Stanford and MIT people trying to imitate. They were not trying to imitate our MOOCs - these people do not pay attention to lowly educators in Canada. They were trying to imitate he flavour of the day, th Khan Academy, 'discovered' by TED and propped up by the gates Foundation. And I don't think they missed the point of Khan.  They put up video lectures, then (as in the Gates project) added some learning support to them, like online activities.

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with what they are doing, though it's very different from what George and I are doing. I think it's OK to mass-broadcast lectures and give people automated exercises. I think it helps a lot of people, and is great entertainment for others. I think it is a very conservative yet canny marketing move by these institutions, akin to OpenCourseWare - and it's worth keeping in mind that every time someone says "this is not a real education" it actually plays into the hands of these institutions.

-- Stephen
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