MOOCs and the Future of the Humanities: A Roundtable (Part 1) by Ian Bogost, Cathy Davidson, Al Filreis and Ray Schroeder

The LA Review of Books has published MOOCs and the Future of the Humanities: A Roundtable (Part 1) by Ian Bogost, Cathy Davidson, Al Filreis and Ray Schroeder. The Introduction is featured below; click the link at the bottom to read the full discussion and contribute via the comments. 

 

In little more than a year, discussion of the role of online learning in higher education has undergone a qualitative shift. With the launch of for-profit educational start-ups such as Coursera, Udacity, and the MIT and Harvard-founded nonprofit platform edX, Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have moved from obscure experiment to major initiative. MOOCs are online classes, generally composed of short lectures, that allow for open, often free enrollments (thousands can easily enroll in a single course), assessing students through periodic quizzes and discussion forums. With astonishing rapidity, these systems have captured the imaginations of administrators, professors, trustees, and pundits, but not always in a positive way. If commentators are to be believed, MOOCs are likely to radically disrupt traditional curricular models, academic organizational structures, as well as accreditation schemes, threatening (or promising) to do nothing less than, in the words of Alan Jacobs, “unbundle” the university in much the same way that the internet has been systematically unbundling journalism.

To date, few discussions of what Aaron Bady has called “the MOOC moment” have focused specifically on how new models of online learning may impact the humanities. The Los Angeles Review of Books invited four distinguished professors, some of whom have experience teaching online, to reflect on the risks and opportunities MOOCs present for the humanities. Our goal is not to offer any sort of final word on the phenomenon, but rather to inspire further debate and reflection.

Our discussion comes in two parts. Today, we publish four initial position papers by our contributors. Tomorrow, we will publish further discussion of these initial essays. We encourage our readers to continue the discussion in the comments section as well.

– Lee Konstantinou

 

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