Monday, February 4th, 2013
I first heard about massive open online courses–or MOOCs–when I read Caroline Porter’s Wall Street Journal article, “College Degree, No Class Time Required.” Since then what Thomas Friedman called a revolution to hit universities in a New York Times op-ed piece a few days later has hit the mass media.
Porter wrote: “Now, educators in Wisconsin are offering a possible solution by decoupling the learning part of education from student assessment and degree-granting.
“Wisconsin officials tout the UW Flexible Option as the first to offer multiple, competency-based bachelor’s degrees from a public university system. Officials encourage students to complete their education independently through online courses, which have grown in popularity through efforts by companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity.”
The state’s governor, Scott Walker, expects to join the program. He never finished earning his degree.
The purpose of the program is to strengthen the state’s workforce according to a university spokesperson. As noted in the title of the article, you can get a degree that’s equal to one earned in a traditional four year program without spending a moment in a classroom.
Time and money saved are obvious benefits as are recognition of bits of courses taken over a lifetime in addition to validation of on the job training. David Lando is the 41 year old whom Porter describes in the program who will take hours of tests at home so as to finish a degree “based on knowledge–not just class time or credits,” she wrote.
Well beyond Michigan residents, reporters address the impact of MOOCs from the fact that a professor who previously reached a few thousand students over a lifetime can potentially teach hundreds of thousands around the world in a semester. With a computer and facilitator, students in the poorest countries will take part in learning from recognized professors.
Porter quotes professors who warn about potentially watering down degrees. Do you think this might happen? Will traditional college degrees continue to be given to teens/20-somethings to give them a leg up so as to enter the workforce with knowledge? Or, will a college education become a dinosaur, a parking lot for the children of the one percent? Does the world benefit now that millions [who understand English] can benefit from learning from the best ? Should performance, rather than a degree, once again determine who is eligible for certain jobs as it was for the Wisconsin Governor?