Emperor's new Mooc

October 31, 2013

I find the renewed hype about online courses depressing: we’ve been here before. In his 2003 book The Flickering Mind, US journalist Todd Oppenheimer considers such courses to be less effective than conventional teaching. Distance learning demands unusual commitment and perseverance on the part of the student - rare qualities and not commonly found when courses are intended for anyone.

Students prefer face-to-face contact with teachers and this makes perfect sense, for much more is communicated tacitly or implicitly than can be directly stated or organised. Such contact also upholds the essential “community” of the learning process.

But then we have the likes of Stephen Haggard talking about massive open online courses (“The Mooc wave of hype will break on a transformed world”, Opinion, 3 October). Like most proponents of the educationally revolutionary aspects of the computer, he sees criticism of online education as applying only to earlier experiments that can be improved upon and ultimately transcended - but what can’t be overcome is the nature of the student (and the teacher).

We are offered a rather sinister projection of the “inevitability” of the Mooc movement as “the force that swept away the old higher education world” (significantly, Haggard refers in the past tense to a process that has hardly begun). It may come to pass that Moocs will sweep away academic tradition: the Haggards of this world may be relaxed about this, but God help the rest of humanity.

Nigel Probert
Porthmadog

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard