Why some universities vote against MOOCs

6 May, 2013

UPDATE: May 7, 2013: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad MOOC?  |   Faculty Backlash Grows

San Jose State University has been at the front line of experimenting with MOOC models in its search for ways to meet continuous budget cuts and to reduce endless waiting lists of enrolled students to actually get access to the high-demand courses they need to graduate. Part of  University´s strategic vision is also to explore new monetization models and redesign of pedagogies for both on campus and online education. The first two semesters of the partnership with edX courses look very promising, and when asked about risks related to this daring strategy, Mr. M. Qayoumi, president of San Jose State, answered: ”It could not be worse than what we do face to face”. Not limiting itself to the edX, the university in January entered into a new partnership with Udacity and Coursera, using different approach from edX in every case.

Next thing we hear from San Jose State is a fierce attack by faculty of philosophy department on “Great Teachers” from elite universities and call for professional solidarity: there is no shortage of capable faculty or any pedagogical issues at San Jose State, so why should they teach MIT course? In addition, they challenge the pedagogy used by MOOC and troubled by moral and academic issues associated with MOOCs.

Another faculty debate on a proposed partnership with edX started at Amherst College and ended up on April 16, 2013 with voting 70-36 against it. Debate at the deciding faculty meeting centered around the suitability of the edX platform and MOOCs to Amherst’s educational mission. However, the faculty voted to approve a second motion that would explore alternatives to edX, relying on the own college resources. New ways of teaching would include “flipped” classrooms and online videos. (As for “resources”, just a reminder: Amherst endowment is ca $1.6 Bln).

“I think we’re at the early stages of that honeymoon period coming to an end,” says Richard Garrett, vice president and principal analyst of Eduventures. The current debate at Amherst demonstrates “a healthy way how the question of incorporating online education into the curriculum could be thoroughly discussed by any organization – a way that they wouldn’t have a few years ago“, says Garrett.

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