MOOCs Stir Up Controversy

Experts are divided on whether massive open online courses will improve or destroy higher education.

Advocates for MOOCs believe they will make quality education available to everyone on the globe.
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And what kind of education will students receive if cash-strapped universities start offering MOOCs to save money, in turn laying off their faculty or converting them to glorified teaching assistants?

[Explore free open courses available to you.]

Faculty members and university leaders are increasingly voicing their reservations, too. Philosophy professors at San Jose State University, for example, made headlines in April 2013 by refusing to pilot a MOOC developed by edX.

And earlier this month, the provost of American University declared a moratorium on MOOCs until the school's faculty senate and board of trustees could craft a policy related to the controversial courses.

 "It's very hard to find anyone to argue that existing MOOCs are the equivalent of what is being done in typical university classrooms," says Aaron Bady, a doctoral candidate at the University of California—Berkeley. "A MOOC is great as this voluntary thing you can choose to do, but the moment it turns into a substitute for actual university education it becomes a really cannibalistic proposition."

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