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Florida Says Yes to MOOCs


Florida Governor Rick Scott has signed a bill to expand the use of massively open online courseware in the state’s primary, secondary, and higher education systems. The law, which has been described as a slightly watered down version of an earlier bill, encourages public schools to use the courses as a teaching tool in certain designated subjects and allows college students to use them to obtain transfer credits when switching schools.

As Inside Higher Ed reports, teachers, professors and their unions are dead set against the new law:

Tom Auxter, the president of the 7,000-member United Faculty of Florida, said “intense and feverish” opposition from faculty helped scale back the plan. Still, he warned of a generation of “cheap and dirty” online courses offered to students before they enroll in college. “No matter how many times they use ‘quality,’ this is a cheapening of what higher education is all about,” Auxter warned, referring to supporters of MOOCs for credit.

Its disappointing, though not particularly surprising, that the education establishment is so hostile to one of the most promising ideas to come along in education in years.

Maybe they’ll eventually jump on the bandwagon if Florida gets the implementation right. The state has two years to determine exactly how to put the law into practice. We hope other states will follow Florida’s lead, learning from its successes and failures along the way.

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  • Nick Bidler

    The cartel-style rumblings are to be expected, but I am reminded of a study that showed charter schools did not perform any better than public schools. It was trumpeted as a reason to not bother with charter schools, but something overlooked was that charter schools got the same results using less money.

  • Ellie K

    I don’t understand how MOOCs could be used in primary school education, as stated in the first paragraph here. For college-level and perhaps high school subjects, I can envision possible implementation. But primary school is for kindergarten through sixth grade, yes?

    How will 100,000 third graders be able to conduct study groups in offline forums and submit collaboratively worked assignments to the teacher? That is the means by which MOOCs work. 100,000 students is a typical, not overly large number of students. These concerns would seem sufficient to justify the “hostile” education establishment’s attitude toward use of MOOCs, in any context, for primary school education.

    • Corlyss

      There’s some pretty advanced 5th and 6th graders who could take advantage of the opportunities to take courses suited to their abilities rather than their ages.

  • Jim__L

    Threatens the ivory tower, does it?

    What is higher education “all about”, anyway?

    It seems to me that MOOCs can only help those of us dedicated to a lifetime love of learning gather that learning far more conveniently, without having to take up a professor’s time or attention.

    The whole point behind literacy is its ability to allow us to communicate with people we’ve never met. That is its power. That is why cultures that practice literacy are more effective than merely oral cultures.

    Cultures that embrace MOOCs will similarly be more effective than those that don’t.

    MOOCs belong in the same progression as the alphabet, wood pulp paper, the printing press, the primary school, and the Internet.

    No exaggeration.

    • Ellie K

      People who benefit from MOOCs are people who are already life-long learners; the intellectually curious, or those who wish to stay current in their field by augmenting with related though traditionally peripheral fields of study. Most academicians and working professionals who take MOOCs enjoy them, and derive long lasting benefit.

      MOOCs won’t be effective for teaching those who don’t benefit from classroom instruction, or are not self-motivated to learn. Devoting even more resources to such students is not effective. So to some extent, I believe your point is well-taken.

      On the contrary side, if one is paying good money for education, then a professor should use his time and focus his attention on teaching you! Granted, for adult learners, convenience can be essential, make possible what could never be otherwise. In contrast, students, especially young ones, should not be catered to with convenience. For their parents, it is relevant. Children often do better when bounds are clearly defined. Praise is important! There must be criteria for that, and attendance goes a long way in life e.g. reliability.

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