Wednesday, June 12, 2013

More Arguments with Humanities Professors

I have been reading the blogs of some highly anti-MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) humanities people. Mostly they discuss how bad MOOCs must be (few seem to have completed one)and all the reasons why they can't and shouldn't be allowed to succeed. Some of these reasons are pretty good (personal interactions with the prof and other students can be valuable learning experiences) and some that are pretty bad (Americans won't value an education that's free, MOOCs are nothing but televised lectures).

Humanities people always seem to claim that they teach analytical thinking, but reading their arguments is hardly persuasive. When San Jose State introduced MOOCed courses to their own curriculum, the Philosophy Department issued a widely publicized dissent. Here is a fragment:

“The thought of the exact same social justice course being taught in various philosophy departments across the country is downright scary—something out of a dystopian novel...

(1)There is no reason to think that MOOCs will reduce learning to a single course in each subject. Popular subjects already have courses from different universities.

(2)Michael Sandel is reading a hell of a lot less dystopian novels than I am.

Here is another dissent, courtesy once again

of the Stanford Daily,

The one [Stanford] professor who was not interested in the [MOOC] proposition, Professor of Art History Alexander Nemerov, reiterated his opposition to offering his courses online.

“I think that part of the beauty of [giving a lecture] is how ephemeral it is,” he said.

“I feel that the lecture is there for the people who are in the class. That is to say that it’s based on a face-to-face interaction between people all in one room. I don’t know how I feel about taking out the personal quality of it.”

Oh well.