Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Unequal Classrooms

I thought some of you might be interested in my opinion piece over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed. I'm on vacation, so haven't been able to follow the comments but I'm looking forward to reading them when I get back.


  1. Jennifer,

    You emphasize in your piece how MOOCs may impede the abilities of low income, etc. students in acquiring the middle-class norms they need to succeed. I agree with your specific point, but I also think it points to broader issues about MOOCs and the social dimensions of learning. There seem to be a lot of questions about how MOOCs alter the social dimensions of learning that no one (or at least no one I'm aware of at least) is asking:
    - How will MOOCs influence how students influence one another as learners? We have good reason to think that students adapt to the learning expectations and habits of the students around them -- that ambient norms about studying, etc., shape how students organize their learning efforts (for better or worse!). Will MOOCs obviate that influence, or shift it -- and if so, how?
    - How will MOOCs influence student-instructor relationships? There's lot of evidence that student success in their degree programs, likelihood of graduation, etc., depend in no small measure on relationships with faculty. Will MOOCs weaken those relationships, or change them for the better?
    - How will MOOCs influence students' relationship to their institution? I doubt, for instance, that students enrolled in MOOCs associated with a given institution will feel a strong sense of loyalty to it, the sort of loyalty that might (for example) lead them to donate money to the institution. I find it ironic that at my university we're simultaneously discussing how to strengthen relationships with alumni and how/whether to be involved in MOOCs.

    In any case, I hope your piece opens discussion about whether MOOCs, which facially seem to isolate learners from other learners, their instructors, and their institutions, take adequate stock of the social dimensions of learning.

  2. Thank you for your comments Michael! I'm writing a longer piece on this and this is very useful. I'll post more about it on ISW once it comes together.


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