Cathy Davidson Shares Her Experiences Teaching a MOOC!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article today by Cathy Davidson (Duke University and soon to be at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York), sharing her experiences in teaching a MOOC, The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education, developed with Coursera.  She sets aside some of the pedagogical issues for now but promises to come back to them at a later date.  Regardless, she  provides several important insights.  For example:

“I want to say, bluntly and simply here, that, as presently conceived, MOOCs are not a “solution” to the problem of rising costs at American universities today. The Coursera data indicate the primary audience of MOOCs isn’t the traditional college-bound student. The typical MOOC participant is a 30-year-old with a college or even a postbaccalaureate degree. Two-thirds live outside the United States.

…Nor are MOOCs the cause of all problems facing American universities today. MOOCs did not create our adjunct crisis, our overstuffed lecture halls, or our crushing faculty workloads. The distress in higher education is a product of 50 years of neoliberalism, both the actual defunding of public higher education by state legislatures and the magical thinking that corporate administrators can run universities more cost-effectively than faculty members. They don’t. The major push to “corporatize” higher education has coincided with a rise, not a decrease, in costs.

…We wanted to see if the 18,000-plus participants who ended up registering for the course could help galvanize a movement on behalf of educational changes that any professor, department, or school could begin to carry out today. The short answer (surprise, surprise!) is that it takes infrastructure, planning, and human labor to make real change. I believe parts of this could be replicated by anyone wishing to create a real-world movement from a MOOC.”

Davidson goes on to describe the students and the nature of the active participation in her MOOC course.  She concludes:

“As one participant noted, “The learners who signed up for this course obviously have a passion for learning and changing education. I only hope that each of us will try to do something to change our learning culture; perhaps as a movement or perhaps as an individual. The rewards would be worth it.” Or, in the inspiring words of another: “If every student in this class did only one thing to change the tide of education, we’d have a tidal wave!”

I think more faculty who teach MOOCs need to do this type of sharing  so that we can understand more of the nuance of teaching with this technology.  There are a number of knowledge kernels in Cathy’s piece and it adds important insight into how higher education might integrate MOOC technology into its future.




One comment

  1. Thanks so much for this. For the practicalities, Kaysi Holman, who produced the MOOC, also wrote a column for the #FutureEd blog on the Chronicle of Higher Education for which my face to face students (undergrads and grads in fields from art history to computer science and from Duke, UNC, and NCSU) wrote two columns a week. They covered many different aspects of the course. Finally Hybrid Pedgogy published my “10 Things I Learned While Designing a MOOC” about the details doing in, and I’ll write a “10 Things I Learned from Teaching a MOOC” later and, as you note, I am working on a serious research paper with lots of data on the whole experience . . . that will be a while from now as, well, there’s a bit on my plate right now. Thank you again for this and looking forward to many conversations with GC and CUNY colleagues (that includes students and staff for me, always, but I know I need to be clear on that as it doesn’t for everyone).