The California Legislature is considering a bill "to require the state’s 145 public colleges and universities to grant credit for low-cost online courses offered by outside groups, including classes offered by for-profit companies.
An effort driven by those who stand to gain material profit is not the best approach to legislation that could have profound intended and unintended consequences on traditional, not-for-profit higher education.
I am an advocate of distance-distributed modes of teaching and learning. I get that California in particular is in a financial crunch such that this approach would appear very attractive to the legislature. But hang on a minute ... have we -- higher education -- really thought the perils as well as the promise of this and other technology-mediated approaches to teaching and learning through sufficiently to make sound decisions based on foundational principles and missions of our institutions? Or, via a state legislature, have them make for us?
I don't think so. Perhaps it is time for leaders of higher education to stop thinking about the competitive edge that any single "MOOC" choice will provide their individual institution and get together, sooner rather than later, with the associations, to think this matter through with the benefit of each others' skills, intellectually and analytically, making sure at every step that first principles and missions lead the effort, not voracious profiters and anxious legislators.
A year ago MOOCs were, as my mother would have said, "All the rage." It is time for higher educations' cooler heads to prevail at least on an analysis of what change befalls us before that term takes on less propitious meaning and it becomes more difficult to roll back up from where we might fallen off the edge in an excited rush. If there was ever a time for our college and universities leaders to exercise leadership on the public stage, it is NOW.
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