Advice for Middle-Age Seekers of MOOCs

Cathy Davidson, one of HASTAC's cofounders and John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English at Duke University, is featured today in the New York Times. She's written a 2-part series on MOOCs that explores their potential and their negatives. Questions proposed by readers and addressed by Cathy include the high dropout rates of MOOCs, their potential to mitigate income inequality, and how they fit with traditional instruction.


"One of the biggest downsides of MOOCs is the “magical thinking” that leads people to believe the hype that MOOCs will solve all the economic problems of higher education. They won’t. I’ve written about this before in more detail (e.g., “Why College Costs So Much—and Why the Pundits Get it Wrong”). MOOCs cannot in themselves reverse the drastic cuts in higher education that have driven the tuition increases at public institutions over the last decades...

"If we view MOOCs as a public service, not equivalent to a college degree, then the poor retention rate is on par with other voluntary self-improvement programs. People take MOOCs for all kinds of reasons, ranging from a desire for job training and retraining, skills development, professional development, self-enhancement, or just pleasure. This is true of all kinds of instruction online, not just MOOCs — there’s an array of priceless content available to anyone with an Internet connection on iTunes U, millions of instructional videos on YouTube and elsewhere, and so forth."

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