Outsourcing Friedman

March 7, 2013, 1:22 pm

Since the world is flat, per Thomas Friedman, I’m going to outsource my incredulity at his column on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to John Warner over at Inside Higher Ed:

Thomas Friedman has MOOCs in his sights and that should worry all sides of the debate because Thomas Friedman operates a very large megaphone that helps shape public opinion, and also he is almost always wrong about everything. Yes, that is an ad hominem attack, a logical fallacy I became acquainted with in one of the classes I took taught by a professor in college. (Or it might have actually been in high school, I’m not sure.) I normally don’t go for ad hominem because as a teacher of writing I strongly believe that what matters are the ideas not the speaker. In this case, I’m making an exception because Thomas Friedman has demonstrated himself to be so wrong, so often, that he should no longer be listened to about anything.

Oh, all right, I’ll pick on on part of Friedman:

Therefore, we have to get beyond the current system of information and delivery — the professorial “sage on the stage” and students taking notes, followed by a superficial assessment, to one in which students are asked and empowered to master more basic material online at their own pace, and the classroom becomes a place where the application of that knowledge can be honed through lab experiments and discussions with the professor. There seemed to be a strong consensus that this “blended model” combining online lectures with a teacher-led classroom experience was the ideal.

1. The idea that professors universally do the “sage on the stage” in their classes indicates to me, at least, that Friedman hasn’t entered an actual university in decades. None of the institutions I’ve been associated with had only Paper Chase style courses.

2. If–given the business model that higher education is currently following–Friedman doesn’t realize that his ‘blended model’ is going to end up with the videos of ‘superstar’ professors followed up by a “teacher-led classroom” that is helmed by contingent faculty earning almost no money, without benefits, and teaching hundreds of sections, then he’s remarkably naive. What this will actually accelerate is the feudalization of higher education. I can’t even being to imagine what the graduation rate for universities built on the online model will be.

Actually, I have a pretty good idea. The graduation rate for online students at the University of Phoenix was five percent within six years.

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