In February at the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT), Cathy N. Davidson caused a stir when she challenged her fellow professors:
If we can be replaced by a computer screen, we should be.
Davidson, professor at Duke University and co-director of the Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge, recently followed up on this statement in a brief and thought-provoking article for Co.Exist (ht EdSurge). She believes that many profs can be replaced by computer screens, citing several examples of highly motivating MOOCs from major universities.
But not every MOOC is Carnegie-Mellon’s brilliant statistics course and not every classroom has 600 students texting as a boring prof drones on. Both are stereotypes. And since every workplace survey says communication skills, critical thinking ability, collaborative skills, and ability to understand diverse cultural contexts and acuity at diagnosing problems and finding creative solutions are the most prized qualities in future employees, one wonders how one would ever learn those through MOOCs, even those accompanied by peer-learning components.
I think she has a good point, especially the fact that so many assumptions of the benefits and challenges of certain changes to the system seem to be based on stereotypes. Davidson also argues that giving up on traditional residential universities will have unintended consequences like educational disempowerment and will require major changes in the structure of parenting for turning kids into adults.
Just another perspective in the conversation about higher education reform. I will stop blogging about MOOCs for now, since there is so much happening so quickly, it's difficult to follow what components will be significant in the long run.