While [Duke provost Peter] Lange saw the consortium as expanding the courses available to Duke students, some faculty members worried that the long-term effect might be for the university to offer fewer courses — and hire fewer professors. Others said there had been inadequate consultation with the faculty.Faculty concerns about the spread of online courses may be on the rise. Just two weeks ago, faculty members at Amherst College voted against participating in edX, the nonprofit collaboration founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, citing concerns about costs and about how “massive open online courses” would affect a residential campus devoted to small discussion classes.
According to Amherst’s internal report, faculty members also worried that the introduction of MOOCs would “take student tuition dollars away from so-called middle-tier and lower-tier” schools, pushing their colleagues at these institutions out of their jobs.The fears don’t end there. Some California professors claim that MOOCs would force them to give up their courses as their personal intellectual property, weakening their leveraging ability with university administrations. And 72 percent of professors surveyed by the Chronicle of Higher Education said that students who perform well in MOOCs should not be granted formal college credit.But perhaps the most common criticism is that MOOCs diminish the quality of education because they don’t involve regular, in-person interaction with a professor. This would be a more persuasive argument if the traditional classroom model clearly provided a sterling education, but in many cases, it doesn’t. Students want and deserve more options.It comes as little surprise that entrenched interests want to obstruct online ed to protect their careers, but they would do honor to their profession by letting it thrive instead.