Massive Open Online PhDs

Jon Dron, Jun 05, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

In this discussion paper Jon Dron offers a good idea that suffers from one fatal flaw. The good idea is the PhD MOOC, or the Massive Open Online PhD. Sounds great, especially for someone like me. "A MOOPhD would, of necessity, be highly modular, offering student-controlled support for all parts of the research process, from research process teaching, through initial proposals, through project management, through community support, through paper writing etc." OK, so the fatal flaw? It's this: "The main idea behind this is to prepare students for a PhD by publication, not to award doctorates." Which sounds great, except that there are no PhDs by publication. Believe me, I've looked. Sure, some institutions may offer them for their own staff, but for the rest of us plebes, they're just an urban myth. That, to me, is a pretty big problem.

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