MOOCs and the Professoriate

By Kaustuv Basu

Last week, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote with evangelical zeal about the arrival of Massive Online Open Courses, the free courses from top institutions available to students anywhere in the world. Not only would MOOCs be a huge industry in five years, he said, but financially strapped community colleges could use the online lectures while their own professors could work “face-to-face” with students. Friedman has been wrong before with this kind of technology related over-earnestness: In 1999, he wrote about how easy it would be for mom-and-pop online stores to compete with But even so, Friedman remains a global trend-spotter.

Also noticing and reacting to Friedman’s column last week were a bunch of faculty members who took to the blogs, complaining about his column, but worrying about their own future. A post by Mark Brown, an associate professor of government at California State University, Sacramento, criticized the notion that MOOCs could be a solution to the scarcity of public funding in higher education.


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