Sunday, October 13, 2013


A colleague directed me to an excellent analysis of what's so wrong with the idea of MOOCs by Gianpiero Petriglieri of INSEAD. Some highlights:

... the techno-democratization of education looks like a cover story for its aristocratization. MOOCs aren’t digital keys to great classrooms’ doors. At best, they are infomercials for those classrooms. At worst, they are digital postcards from gated communities.

This is why I am a MOOC dissenter. More than a revolution, so far this movement reminds me of a different kind of disruption: colonialism.

... Colonialism is a particular kind of socialization. It involves educating communities into the “superior” culture of a powerful but distant center by replacing local authorities or co-opting them as translators. A liberating education, on the other hand, makes students not just recipients of knowledge and culture but also owners, critics, and makers of it. 

While they claim to get down to business and focus on training only, MOOCs do their fair share to affirm and promulgate broader cultural trends, like the rise of trust in celebrities’ authority, the cult of technology as a surrogate for leadership, and the exchange of digital convenience for personal privacy.  

The idea that we should have access to anything wherever and however we want it for free, in exchange for the provider’s opportunity to use and sell our online footprint to advertisers or employers is the essence of digital consumerism. This is the culture that MOOCs are borne of and reinforce in turn. 

Even the fabled personalization that digital learning affords is really a form of mass customization. There is no personal relationship. It is a market of knowledge where no one is known and care is limited to the provision of choices. 

Whether its crusaders are venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, academics, or students, the colonizer is a transactional view of education, centered on knowledge as a commodity, which displaces a relational view of education, centered on developing through relationships. This in turn becomes, like all precious resources of colonial territories, no longer a common good but a leisurely privilege.

No comments: