When your classroom is a global one, filled with well-informed online learners, they don’t cut you much slack. Hundreds of people pore over every element of your course, making well-informed and sometime acerbic comments. Academics who run Massive Open Online Courses MOOCs are finding that they can’t afford any sloppy reasoning, one-sided arguments, or narrow perspectives when teaching to a massive global audience.As academic lead at FutureLearn, a company offering free online courses from UK universities, I’ve seen that this instant feedback can be eye-opening for course designers.On a university campus, students stick around even though the teaching may be dreadful, because they need the degree qualification. In MOOCs they leave as soon as they lose interest.
The increasing numbers of students opting to enroll with an online learning institution, combined with the continual evolution of the digital age, has prompted professionals within higher education to address the effect of this growth on accreditation.For centuries, educational accreditation has provided a quality assurance usually by way of governmental or semi-governmental organizations. If a college or university has an accredited status, the qualifications it awards its students are deemed to be fit and proper by potential employers. Critics of this tradition have pointed to escalating tuition fees as a primary cause for disenfranchising middle-class and working class students. These learners, therefore, may be more likely to pursue a course in distance education as it is more financially viable, despite the fact that some of these universities and colleges possess an unaccredited tag.
At a recent Stanford forum, NYU Education and Sociology professor Richard Arum, even raised the call for the pressing need for educational reform, and for the overall re-appraisal of accreditation standards.
Should business school students be made to foot the bill for academic research that no one reads? Not any more, says Larry Zicklin, a former chairman of Wall Street investment firm Neuberger Berman, a clinical professor at New York University’s Stern School and a lecturer on ethics at the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania.
With academic journals under increasing attack from several quarters, Mr Zicklin has upset some colleagues in urging schools to cut tuition fees by making faculty members focus more on teaching and less on publishing research in journals. He points to research that uses the University of Texas at Austin as a case study and says that fees could be halved if 80 per cent of faculty with the lowest teaching loads were to teach only half as much as the 20 per cent with the highest teaching loads. He predicts that the rise of massive open online courses, or Moocs, and other market forces will conspire against schools that fail to act.
Back in November we gave you a heads up on A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior, a MOOC being created by Dan Ariely. If you’re a frequent visitor to our site, you know that Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, who has previously explained by why well-intentioned people lie, and why CEOs repeatedly get outsized bonuses that have no basis in rationality. Ariely’s six-week course finally begins tomorrow (Monday the 25th), so, before you miss the boat, reserve your free seat today.
Dan Ariely is one of the best scientists writing today. This would be a great course to sign up to.