The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
MOOC Revolution MOOCs, Offline and in Person

MOOCs may soon be coming to a physical classroom near you. Dominican University of California will be the first to offer a “hub,” in partnership with MOOC-provider Coursera, where students can meet in person and receive tutoring from “course facilitators.” Since November, Coursera has established hubs in other countries, among them India and Kenya, but Dominican’s hub will be the first inside the United States. Inside Higher Ed reports:

The program is a product of [Coursera's] partnership with the U.S. Department of State and a number of educational organizations in countries such as India, Kenya and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, among others. The New York Public Library will host a second domestic hub.

Since their launch in November, the hubs have made a case for a more hands-on approach to teaching MOOC content. Completion rates among students who participate in them range between 30 and 100 percent, Coursera reported, compared to the dismal (and much-debated) 6.8 percent average rate seen across all of the courses offered by Coursera’s partner institutions. More than half of the hubs are located in emerging countries, providing students there with free Internet access.

Whether the hub will become a permanent feature at Dominican has yet to be determined, but as an “experiment of how to use MOOC content as a textbook replacement” the trial seems well worth it. Many professors would probably welcome the development of free course materials designed for classroom use.

Coursera and Dominican represent a model for future partnerships between MOOC providers and brick-and-mortar schools. For now, the university is providing the space to students without charge. But in future, universities could charge students a small fee for the use of classrooms, housing, teachers, and perhaps even meals, while the students take all of their classes online. (In a recent WSJ article, Glenn Reynolds referred to this sort of arrangement as “hoteling.”) In fact, a school could even organize a degree program that uses MOOCs as all or most of the content, while providing only minimal oversight. Look for MOOCs to make further appearances on non-virtual campuses in the near future.

Published on May 2, 2014 4:12 pm
  • lukelea

    Off topic, but from The Jewish Journal, an eye-opener by Dennis Prager:

    “Something unprecedented in American history is taking place. Debate on almost every subject of significance is being choked off. People who only six years ago had “Dissent Is Patriotic” stickers affixed to their bumpers are now crushing dissent.

    This is a generalization with innumerable examples.

    Here are a few.

    First example: global warming. Two weeks ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer began his nationally syndicated column by noting that “[T]wo months ago, a petition bearing more than 110,000 signatures was delivered to The Post, demanding a ban on any article questioning global warming.”

    One might add that the Los Angeles Times has announced that it will not even publish letters to the editor that question the man-made global warming hypothesis. And remember, this is not only a matter of questioning man-made global warming; one cannot question what really matters: the assertion that man-made global warming will lead to the greatest man-made global catastrophe in history.

    In other words, for the left, there is no debate allowed on this issue. Dissenters are labeled “anti-science” and suppressed.

    Second example: same-sex marriage. Again the left has declared that debate is not possible, and for the same reason: There is only one legitimate side on this issue. Anyone who believes that marriage should remain defined as the union of the two sexes is by definition a bigot and a hater, morally indistinguishable from a racist.

    That is why the CEO of Mozilla/Firefox, Brendan Eich, was forced to resign a few weeks ago. Although the gays who work at Mozilla all acknowledged how fairly they were treated both as individuals and as couples under Eich, it didn’t matter to the left. Once Mozilla discovered that Eich had given $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign to have the California Constitution amended to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, he was asked whether he had since recanted. When he refused to recant, he was forced to resign. This is as close to what was routine in communist countries as America has ever experienced: You may not hold certain beliefs, and if you do, you must be re-educated and recant or you become a non-person.

    The same tactics were used in 2012 against Chick-fil-A. After it was revealed that the chief operating officer of the fast-food company made remarks opposing same-sex marriage, the mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, announced that he would not allow Chick-fil-A to open franchises in the city “unless they open up their policies.” Immediately afterward, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Chick-fil-A is not welcome in Chicago. “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” he announced.

    Once again, if you hold a position that differs from the left, you are not to be debated — you are to be crushed.

    A third example is criticism of Islam. This month, Brandeis University withdrew its invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary doctorate. Ali is a black African, feminist, atheist, just the type of person the left usually adores. But after some Brandeis students and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamist activist group, objected, the university withdrew its invitation. Raised a Muslim in Somalia, Ali has criticized Islam for its treatment of women. For Brandeis, that trumps all the good Ali has done for women around the world.

    Criticize Christianity and you are a hero at Brandeis and almost every other university. Criticize Jews and Israel and you receive an honorary doctorate. Brandeis awarded an honorary doctorate to the playwright Tony Kushner despite Kushner’s having said, among other things:

    “I’ve never been a Zionist. I have a problem with the idea of a Jewish state. It would have been better if it never happened.”

    “[Israel was] founded in a program that, if you really want to be blunt about it, was ethnic cleansing. …”

    “The biggest supporters of Israel are the most repulsive members of the Jewish community.”

    When pro-Israel alumni and pro-Israel students on Brandeis’ campus objected to Kushner’s being awarded an honorary doctorate by Brandeis, the university president defended the decision, announcing:

    “Just as Brandeis does not inquire into the political opinions and beliefs of faculty or staff before appointing them, or students before offering admission, so too the University does not select honorary degree recipients on the basis of their political beliefs or opinions.”

    That was obviously an untruth. Speak with contempt for Israel and Jews who support it and you get an honorary degree. Oppose Islam for its treatment of women, and there is no room for you at a Brandeis commencement ceremony.

    Fourth and fifth examples are race-based affirmative action and third-trimester abortion. Oppose the first, and the left deems you racist. Oppose the second, and you are “anti-woman.”

    As Krauthammer summarizes it: “Opponents [of the left] are marginalized and shunned, destroyed personally and professionally.”

    That’s the key: The left “destroys its opponents personally and professionally.” That is what is now happening in America. It is, therefore, a different America, as neither liberals nor conservatives engaged in this practice in the past. But the left is now in power, from Silicon Valley to the news media to the universities.

    And it is transforming America. This crushing of dissent and dissenters is only one of those ways.”

  • Andrew Allison

    The idea of online courses presented in the presence of a “facilitator” knowledgeable enough to answer questions about the content is absolutely brilliant.