The recent blog post “Attack of the MOOC!” really got me thinking about the MOOC revolution and what it means. The dendrology example Brandon gives is really exciting to me as a scientist/engineer — the idea of leveraging the power of a global classroom community for science and design is pretty awesome. However, why stop here? In a blog post back in December, I talked about my experiences as a student in a small rural high school and how online classes are dramatically increasing access to education for students in those areas. Today, I want to go even further — how can MOOCs change our attitudes, as a society, toward education?
Too Much Education? In Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century, Dr. James Gee ends the video by discussing his ideal vision of education in the 21st century, which will prepare all people to produce knowledge and collaborate to make a better society. He said we would then have the “nice problem” of everyone being “too smart” for some jobs. On the other hand, there is a growing sentiment in higher education that we may already have “Too Many PhDs and Professionals” for our economy to support. How can we reconcile these two ideas telling us that we need both more and less education?
I propose that what our society suffers from is not overeducation, but something more like “overcertification.” We have come to value the piece of paper more than the education it symbolizes, and we often treat higher education primarily as a financial investment. BUT — I think MOOCs have the potential to change this. How? One interesting thing to consider is that most MOOCs are non-credit bearing. Millions of people SIGN UP ANYWAY. Why? To learn something new. Or maybe . . . to produce knowledge and collaborate to make a better society.
You’ve heard what I think — what about you? Do we have too much education, or too little? Would you sign up to take a class for a class for no credit? Why or why not?
I wanted to let you know I have joined the moocworld. I took a class on Probabilistic Graphical Models last semester offered on Coursera and taught at Stanford. I like the idea of MOOCs because they provide an opportunity to learn something for free and without the pressure of a grade attached to it. Since most of these MOOCs are non-credit bearing, you have the flexibility to choose your level of involvement in a course and what you would like to gain from it. In my case, the course I took gave me valuable information on a topic that is difficult to learn from textbooks and scientific papers alone. I think a lot of the courses that are currently being offered as MOOCs have this in common. They are, for the most part, focussed on topics that are not commonly offered as courses by all universities. That was the major appeal for me at least.