Wellesley, Dickinson presidents debate MOOC 'revolution'


Dive Summary:

  • In five letters to the editor, higher education leaders, including the presidents of Dickinson College and Wellesley College, have responded to Thomas L. Friedman's op-ed column, "Revolution Hits the Universities", which expresses optimism at the world-changing potential of massive open online courses, or MOOCs.
  • William G. Durden, the president of Dickinson College, argues that costly brick-and-mortar degrees fund and are necessary to MOOCs; Durden contends the brand of an institution such as M.I.T. will only increase in value while the supposed MOOC "revolution" is only "the rich getting richer."
  • H. Kim Bottomly, the president of Wellesley College, asserts that MOOCs do not spell the end of a traditional campus-based education but merely widen access to the knowledge and teaching provided at such institutions; meanwhile, Beth Rubin, director of SNL Online at the School of New Learning, Depaul University, maintains that while MOOCs may have great potential, they are still quite far away from meeting it due to low course completion rates and that, as of right now, only the strongest, most "driven, self-motivated and organized" students have the ability to truly benefit from MOOCs.

From the article:

"Thomas L. Friedman celebrates the possibilities offered by MOOCs, but gives short shrift to some key limitations. Completion rates are terrible, at roughly 10 percent to 15 percent. There is limited formative feedback to help students develop critical thinking and writing skills; assessment is typically either computer-graded or “crowd sourced.” While thousands of students may post in online discussions, most students do not get known as individuals, so there is little sense of social presence. ..."

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