Academia’s four letter word
There’s been some hubub over the weekend about San Jose State University dropping its partnership with Udacity, an online-learning startup, because of an abysmal failure rate running from 56 to 76 percent over five different massive open online courses. A Chronicle blogger offers a good read on the underlying problems of MOOC trials at SJSU, although others suggest that Udacity’s bust should be thought of as online education’s “Pets.com”, an early failure of paradigm-shifting online retail. And some just don’t want to talk about the M-word at all.
I’ve little to add to the larger debate over the place of MOOCs in the future of higher ed writ large. From my own small corner though, I’m interested if open courses could be useful to graduate students who find themselves needing to supplement their program’s coursework with ancillary technical or administrative skills, like scripting languages or grant writing.
Could the current surplus of technical MOOCs be especially useful for budding digital humanities scholars? In the spirit of trying it before I knock it, I’ve enrolled in a MOOC on social network analysis for this fall, and a faculty colleague will be working through one on GIS. We’ll find out soon enough.