The President of the Council of University of California Faculty Associations, Robert Meister, has written an open letter to Coursera’s Daphne Koller (Stanford University) proposing to Coursera a course on the “for-profit model” it is pursuing. The letter captures better than any piece on MOOCs I have yet seen the essential contradiction in the altruistic claims purportedly driving MOOC-development and the various monetizing manoeuvres in which MOOC developers are engaging. Meister’s letter also involves a crucial, succinct defence of public universities. An excerpt:
“A large part of Coursera’s appeal lies in your own nearly-socialist vision of an informational Common to which access should no longer be restricted based on the scarcity of places at existing universities and colleges. . . . Here I agree with your and Coursera’s business logic’s implicit criticism of public higher education. Public education has all but lost sight of its egalitarian mission while raising its prices at three times the rate of inflation.
I disagree, however, with Coursera’s implicit claim that privately-financed MOOCs can fulfill the promise once made, and now abandoned, by public systems to be an engine for reducing social and economic hierarchy . . . .
The question is not whether we who teach in public higher education can or should resist the creation of a truly “free” informational Common, but whether we can keep education as a necessary knowledge commons public in innovative, egalitarian ways that run counter to what you and your rivals are planning and doing. . . What I do advocate is government investment in, and protection of, a system of providing common knowledge for the greater good of all in the way that public university systems once hoped to do. . . . A true educational Commons would be a force for reducing academic hierarchy and income inequality.”
Full letter at: http://cucfa.org/news/2013_may10.php.