How the Embrace of MOOC’s Could Hurt Middle America

Greg Graham writes in the Chronicle:

“The great majority of our students will never take Thrun’s course because, frankly, it would be over their heads. My concern is for them and the trickle-down effect that the furor over MOOC’s (massive open online courses) will have on their education. Although they are not the demographic that Thrun is targeting, students like them, who are average or struggling, are the ones who will suffer if this trend continues to grow. Ironically, although the move toward online education is being advanced by some of the nation’s most elite universities, in the end it will be the lower half of the student population that will be forced out of the traditional classroom, widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”

“You might think I’m overreacting. Alarmists rise up every time technology takes a leap forward. But if you were to cast your mind 20, 30, 40 years ahead, it is not hard to imagine a day when a face-to-face education could be a privilege of the elite. The great masses would be educated online. Colleges would be first, but the change would eventually overtake secondary and primary education as well. This could happen because the move toward online education is driven by a holy trinity of interests: state and local governments that want to reduce education expenditures, school administrators forced to cut budgets, and technology companies looking to expand their markets.”

“But the delirium over MOOC’s suggests magical thinking. Exhausted and desperate for answers, we’re tempted to think that technology can save us. But it can’t. Wonderland isn’t the answer. The greatest things happening in education are occurring in classrooms around the world, as teachers look into the eyes of their students and find ways to bring learning to life. It’s a sacred trust that we must not abdicate.”

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