Learning new lessons
Dec 24, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The fabrication is in the first paragraph: "top-quality teaching, stringent admissions criteria and impressive qualifications allow the world’s best universities to charge mega-fees: over $50,000." The actual product for sale at the 'elite' institutions is found later in the article: "sublime architecture, better marriage partners and a huge career boost." Mostly this coverage of MOOCs in the Economist is about spin. Why Tyler Cowan, rather than the many other professors teaching MOOCs before him? Because he's a hard-right neo-conservative economist. Why credit Knewton with the term 'flipped classroom', when we all know it originated elsewhere? Why, Knewton is a for-profit provider of personalised online education. We are supposed to focus on "economic and political pressure to improve productivity in higher education," we are supposed to believe that "real innovation comes from integrating academics talking with interactive coursework, such as automated tests, quizzes and even games," and we are to just naturally agree that "even if MOOCs can coin sound academic currency, they must also make real money."

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