* Online Education in the Media, April and May 2013

Members of the SCFA have been tracking campus conversations about Coursera and other commercial online course providers.  The most recent articles appear at the bottom of the list.

Thank you to Sean Keilen (Literature) for providing us with these updates which have appeared recently in the media.

Duke U.’s Undergraduate Faculty Derails Plan for Online Courses for Credit

“The faculty of Duke University’s undergraduate college drew a line in the sand last week on online education: Massive online experiments are fine, but there will be no credit-bearing online courses at Duke in the near future.The university’s Arts & Sciences Council, the governing arm of the undergraduate faculty, voted down a proposal to join a consortium of top colleges offering for-credit online courses through 2U, a company that specializes in real-time, small-format online education. 2U’s defeat at Duke marked the second time in a month that undergraduate faculty members at a top liberal-arts college had struck down a proposed deal with an online-teaching consortium. On April 16, professors at Amherst College rejected an invitation to join edX, a nonprofit provider of massive open online courses. Like the Amherst faculty, members of the faculty council at Duke passed an alternative resolution affirming that they intended to pursue online education—just not like this one, right now.”

Read full article HERE, by Steve Kolowich, April 30, 2013, Chronicle of Higher Education


Why Some Colleges Are Saying No to MOOC Deals, at Least for Now

Coverage of Amherst’s retreat from edX.  From the article: “”I think that phase has passed, and the folks who are starting to do the work are starting to realize that these efforts … have real costs for the institution,” says Mr. Stokes. “And I think that’s creating a little bit more sobriety about how folks view the opportunity.”

Offering MOOCs through edX is hardly free. There are options available to institutions that want to build their own courses on the edX platform at no charge, but for partners who want help developing their courses, edX charges a base rate of $250,000 per course, then $50,000 for each additional time that course is offered; edX also takes a cut of any revenue the course generates.

There are also significant labor costs that come with offering MOOCs. A recent Chronicle survey found that professors typically spent 100 hours, sometimes much more, to develop their massive online courses, and then eight to 10 hours each week while the courses were in session. This commitment amounted to a major drain on their normal campus responsibilities

Read full article HERE, by Steve Kolowich, April 29, 2013, Chronicle of Higher Education


Major Players in the MOOC Universe

Here is a useful map of the major players in the MOOC universe and where the money is coming from a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education which you can view HERE.

From the article: “Millions of students have signed up for massive open online courses, and hundreds of universities are offering some form of Web-based curriculum. Most students aren’t paying much for these classes, if they’re paying anything at all. So where is all that knowledge—and all the cash—coming from?”


Coursera debates future of monetization, NYT’s Thomas Friedman, Coursera founder Daphne Koller to speak at conference

This article from The Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper at U Penn, describes recent efforts there to determine how to make money from Coursera. It’s a future in which the distinction between education and business has vanished entirely.

From the article: “From generating revenue through advertising to charging a fee to connect potential employers with high-performing students, the proposed business models for Coursera have varied widely. While Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng is the first to admit that not even Coursera knows exactly what its financial future holds, he has expressed optimism that monetization will be a natural result of the company’s wildly popular product. ‘Ultimately the goal of Coursera is to serve students, not to make money, but it’s clear to us that there’s a way we can achieve both,’ Ng said.'”

Read full article HERE, By Seth Zweifler · April 5, 2013, 12:27 am


EdX Rejected 

Note that the Amherst administration asked the faculty to scrutinize the edX proposal. After “months of deliberation on campus”, a nine-member committee of faculty and administrators published a report describing the costs and benefits of collaborating with edX. On the basis of this neutral report, the faculty held a formal vote and rejected the company’s offer.

Especially noteworthy is this passage from the article: “Would Amherst get as much from the collaboration as edX would get from Amherst?” the report said in one of the “cons” sections. “EdX claims to want to revolutionize all of higher education, on campus as well as off. Are we experimenting with them, or are they experimenting with us?”

And also this passage: “In its internal report, the nine-member MOOC committee also worried that ‘the MOOC format will perpetuate the ‘information dispensing’ model of teaching (e.g., lectures, followed by exams).’ At Amherst, courses are taught in seminars and students are never given a multiple-choice exam. In MOOCs, most exams are multiple-choice and written work is graded by peers rather than professors – at least until MOOC providers begin to roll out software to grade student writing. Some Amherst faculty members worried about their peers at less elite institutions. The internal report expressed concern that MOOCs will ‘take student tuition dollars away from so-called middle-tier and lower-tier institutions,’ ‘enable the centralization of American higher education,’ ‘intensify the tiered structure of American higher education’ and ‘may exacerbate the star [faculty] system.’

Read full article HERE, by Ry Rivard, April 19, 2013, Insider Higher Education


Florida approves online-only public university education

It appears that it is now possible for students to go to college in Florida without actually going to college, thanks to the infusion of $15 million in venture capital and the launch of a new series of online bachelor’s programs.

From the article: “This bill transforms education in Florida,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Republican who has long been a proponent of “virtual learning” in public schools. ‘Now, we will be home to the first fully accredited, online public research university institute in the nation,’ said Weatherford. ‘These bold higher-education reforms will help increase Florida’s global competitiveness and ensure our students have meaningful opportunities after high school.’ California and Texas are developing totally online university programs, while Illinois considered the idea and discarded it, according to a spokesman for the American Public and Land Grant Universities Association in Washington.”

Read full article HERE, by Bill Cotterell, TALLAHASSEE | Mon Apr 22, 2013 , REUTERS


The neoliberal assault on academia 

With thanks to Juan Poblete (Literature) and Mark Levine (History) Chair of the Irvine Faculty Association:

From the article: “Something as apparently innocuous as an accreditation agency demanding that syllabi be written in a particular format, or majors justified in a particular way, can wind up empowering university management to intimately regulate teaching….After all, if “teacher ownership of content” is old fashioned, why do you need to hire a professor who can create his or her own course? The bottom line of the neoliberal assault on the universities is the increasing power of management and the undermining of faculty self-governance. The real story behind MOOCs may be the ways in which they assist management restructuring efforts of core university practices, under the smiley-faced banner of “open access” and assisted in some cases by their “superstar”, camera-ready professors”

Read full article HERE, by Tarak Barkawi, April 25, 2013, Aljazeera                        


Colleges Adapt Online Courses to Ease Burden

This article in the Times is devoid of skepticism about online instruction and its hidden costs for (public) universities. It mainly concedes the management-consulting point of view about higher education. But because it is in the Times, and concerns California schools and businesses, I wanted to call it to your attention.

From the article: “Dr. Qayoumi favors the blended model for upper-level courses, but fully online courses like Udacity’s for lower-level classes, which could be expanded to serve many more students at low cost. Traditional teaching will be disappearing in five to seven years, he predicts, as more professors come to realize that lectures are not the best route to student engagement, and cash-strapped universities continue to seek cheaper instruction. “There may still be face-to-face classes, but they would not be in lecture halls,” he said. “And they will have not only course material developed by the instructor, but MOOC materials and labs, and content from public broadcasting or corporate sources. But just as faculty currently decide what textbook to use, they will still have the autonomy to choose what materials to include.””

Read full article HERE, by Tamar Lewin, April 29, 2013, The New York Times


Professors at San Jose State Criticize Online Courses

“San Jose State philosophy professors said there were no dissenters from the letter. “We don’t have any illusions that we’ll change the world,” said Prof. Tom Leddy. “But our position needs to be heard. It’s been amazing to us how quickly we’ve moved to MOOCs, without faculty consultation. And now the state government’s pushing it. It’s great to have Professor Sandel’s lectures available free online, to use if we want. But if we buy them from edX as the basis for our classes, we would suddenly be second-class citizens. I would basically be a teaching assistant, and my students, unlike those at Harvard, could not question their professor.”…

Faculty backlash against online courses has spread in recent weeks, as the Amherst College faculty voted against joining edX, and the Duke faculty voted down participation in Semester Online, offered by a consortium of universities.

Most faculty objections arise out of concerns about how online courses impinge on the professor-student relationship — and how they may lead to the privatization of public universities, and the loss of faculty jobs. “I started out very enthusiastic about the democratization of higher education through the global MOOCs, but I’ve gotten more cautious as my colleagues talk about what it might mean for jobs, at public universities,” said one professor, who taught a popular MOOC, but asked not to be named because he said he had not decided whether he would continue to teach them.

Many college presidents, too, are MOOC skeptics. In a Gallup poll released Thursday, most of the 889 presidents surveyed said they did not expect online education to solve colleges’ financial challenges or improve all students’ learning.”

Read full article HERE, by Tamar Lewin, May 2, 2013, The New York Times


MOOC Skeptics at the Top

From the article: “It would be easy to think that the leaders of American higher education are all in when it comes to MOOCs. Dozens of colleges and universities — many of them among the elites — have rushed to offer massive open online courses. Top foundations back the effort. The American Council on Education has moved quickly to certify some of the courses as credit-worthy. Many other colleges are considering plans to award credit for MOOCs or to use them in instruction.

But it turns out that — when asked privately — most presidents don’t seem sure at all that MOOCs are going to transform student learning, or reduce costs to students — two of the claims made by MOOC enthusiasts and an increasing number of politicians and pundits. That is a major finding of a Gallup survey of college presidents (based on responses from 889 of them) being released today.”

Read full article HERE, by Scott Jaschik,May 2, 2013,  Insider Higher Education


As MOOC Debate Simmers at San Jose State, American U. Calls a Halt

May 9, 2013

New reading, and further evidence that other institutions are proceeding more cautiously than we are.

And here is the memorandum published by the Executive Board of the SJSU California Faculty Association.