Mitchell Duneier, Princeton professor and creator of one of the most celebrated MOOCs, “Introduction to Sociology”, has announced that he is discontinuing his course until further notice. Duneier, an early adopter who has called his course “one of the greatest experiences of my career,” isn’t your garden-variety MOOC naysayer. In fact, he’s not pulling out due to concerns that the experiment wasn’t catching on, but because he thinks it’s jeopardizing the future of his own profession by offering schools a low-cost alternative to professors.
As the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, the dustup all began when Coursera asked him for the right to license other colleges to offer a for-credit version of his course with limited face-to-face instruction:
“I’ve said no, because I think that it’s an excuse for state legislatures to cut funding to state universities,” Mr. Duneier says. “And I guess that I’m really uncomfortable being part of a movement that’s going to get its revenue in that way. And I also have serious doubts about whether or not using a course like mine in that way would be pedagogically effective.” […]
“I also don’t want to be part of a movement that is really about helping state universities achieve cost savings at the expense of their own faculty and students.”
In some ways, the surprising thing about this story is that it hasn’t happened sooner. We see here a key tension at the core of the MOOC debate: the people responsible for creating content are precisely the people whose profession has the most to lose if it succeeds.
Thus far, many of the early MOOC professors have been happy to experiment and explore the boundaries of the new technology, but as institutions begin to offer credit for more and more MOOC programs, the professoriate will begin to feel the pinch. True, star professors capable of creating popular content with a wide appeal will have much to gain from a system that offers them an international platform, but being products of the traditional university system they may not be pleased to see it upended as a result of their work.