In an article on the Inside Higher Ed website, Dr. Joshua Kim continued the conversation around MOOCs and how “Professors Have Taken Over the MOOCs”, as his article is titled. In his opening statement, he states that he believes people need to start opening their minds to what MOOCs can do; as the Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, Dr. Kim has experience in the rise of “disruptive” media such as MOOCs, and I found his perspective to be one that I could relate to.
A little background about my own life experiences: when I finished my undergraduate degree, I didn’t have the money to immediately continue my education. I took a gap year to work locally and save money to pursue my masters, but felt the need and the desire to keep learning. I personally relied on MOOCs (specifically, I used this website) to expand my knowledge in certain areas, because I couldn’t afford to simply enroll in a local community college class. By having access to a free, easily accessible classes on things like digital marketing and grant writing, I was able to add to my own education as well as improve my performance at the job I had (I was a development and marketing assistant for a non-profit at the time). However, with this personal experience with MOOCs I had not yet considered how individuals in the Higher Education field may feel about access to free education, and I quickly learned that not everybody was as big of a fan as I was.
Dr. Kim’s article outlined that professors had a widely held belief that MOOCs were “just another overhyped educational technology”, but that he wanted to introduce a new perspective. Rather than look at MOOCs as disruptive to traditional university education, they could be used as a resource for educators themselves to have a say in the narrative. Rather than turn away in disgust of this everyday level education, Dr. Kim suggests that “professors want to teach open online courses for the same reason that they teach traditional courses, write articles and books and opinion pieces, and give talks to diverse audiences”, saying that MOOCs are “another platform to share their love of their discipline, their passion for the methods and concepts in their field, and their own contributions to growing knowledge in their area of scholarship”.
I really loved that perspective, and it made me feel a little better about utilizing the resources myself. After all, if we only value education that breaks the bank, so to speak, we are turning our backs on a large amount of different perspectives, experiences, and really cool learning opportunities. I think that higher education can sometimes have a pretentious undertone that really holds students and educators back, and by embracing MOOCs the way that Dr. Kim suggests, faculty can share their knowledge with people who otherwise would not have access to education in a traditional setting.
As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, isn’t it our job as educators to teach, after all? Why should we restrict our expertise to specific groups, and what gives us the right to decide who “deserves” education? I for one agree with Dr. Kim’s emphasis on “the devotion and commitment of professors”, because while I recognize how higher education creates stable income for faculty, I also recognize that going to college is not an achievable goal for everybody. I for one have enjoyed classes the most when the instructor was engaged and truly loved the material they were teaching, so by having these kinds of professors create their own content for a larger audience, I think we could all benefit. Personally, I would love to be involved in MOOCs from the other side, and I hope that these continue to spread knowledge and opportunities to individuals everywhere, regardless of circumstance.