The MOOC Racket

Jonathon Rees, Jul 26, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Knowing that Jonathan Rees is a professor of history at Colorado State University, I am led to wonder how many people learned of the nature and causes of the decline of the Roman Empire from Gibbon. Surely it must be in the thousands, mustn't it? I ponder this after reading Rees write, "How do you teach tens of thousands of people anything at once? You don't." But surely Gibbon is accomplishing exactly that. I don't know what the 'completion rate' for Decline and Fall - I can't imagine it's great - but the beauty of books is that if one doesn't work for you, they're not expensive, and you can always start another one. Add to the book the community and interactivity of a MOOC, and you have a viable learning experience. The danger to universities isn't MOOCs - it's professors who assume they are the one and only path to knowledge. On such hubris far greater empires have fallen.

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