Gas station without pumps

2012 July 26

MOOC humor

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:36
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I’m not the only professor cynical about the mad rush to massive open on-line courses.  In A Sociological Eye on Education | Midsummer whimsy: How to write recommendations for 847 students, Aaron Pallas wrote

In my own institution, a senior administrator has been needling me about when I am going to offer a MOOC. I don’t think he found my kidding response—“I have a MOOC. It’s called a blog, and it produces exactly the same revenue as the MOOC would”—very satisfying.

I have much the same reaction: where is the revenue to support MOOCs supposed to come from?  Huge numbers of people sign up for them when the courses are free, but charge even token fees as the number will drop enormously—probably to closer to the number who currently finish such courses. I signed up for Google’s course on searching, but when the time came for the course, I was too busy to do it.  Had they asked for $1 for the course, I would not have signed up, knowing that there was a very high probability that I wouldn’t be able to attend.

A lot of blogs are supported by ad revenue, including WordPress.com’s hosting of mine, I suppose—I have no control over whether they place ads on my blog, and I never see them. (Adblock Plus rules!) A blog costs almost nothing to host, and most bloggers (like me) are not paid for their efforts, so tiny ad revenues per blog are enough to support the hosting of blogs.

MOOCs, on the other hand, require a lot of instructor time and an army of tech support and teaching assistants (fewer per student than conventional courses, but still a fairly large number). That means that each course is fairly expensive to put on (probably between $10,000 and $100,000).  If that is going to be supported by ad revenue, the MOOC provider will need another army of people to sell the ads, raising the cost even higher.

Do we really want courses that are supported by ad revenue?  How much faith would you have in an environmental studies course that was supported by automobile ads?  (How much trust do you put in Bicycling magazine, given the huge number of automobile ads they run?  Personally, I have none—the magazine clearly exists solely to extract money from people who bicycle.)

4 Comments »

  1. Well, I figure it’s immoral to charge CS/CE students for the classes they take, because when they graduate, the world they’ll enter will expect free open source software and they won’t get paid for their work. :-)

    Comment by Ron G. — 2012 July 26 @ 17:29 | Reply

  2. I think online education sites like MIT Open Courseware or the Khan Academy are a tremendous achievement for mankind. But for many people in the world, they provide support material. they are good for a refresher, or learning about concepts that we learn in school or use at work., or even to learn a new skill as a professional. But they do not replace a high school or college education that you get in a high school or college. There we have direct teacher/professor access which allows us to learn so much more than the course material from them and to have them as our mentors. And we have a thriving student community that builds our soft skills to enter the world. Most of us writing on these blogs are privileged enough to have been through high school and college, when a large part of the world has no access to education. Why would we want to give up that privilege for an online course.

    I think we need to learn that an online course is a nice addition to have, but it is not meant to be the actual experience.

    Comment by funnyphuppo — 2012 July 27 @ 03:12 | Reply

  3. […] I’m not the only professor cynical about the mad rush to massive open on-line courses.  In A Sociological Eye on Education | Midsummer whimsy: How to write recommendations for 847 students….   I have much the same reaction: where is the revenue to support MOOCs supposed to come from? Huge numbers of people sign up for them when the courses are free, but charge even token fees as the number will drop enormously—probably to closer to the number who currently finish such courses. I signed up for Google’s course on searching, but when the time came for the course, I was too busy to do it. Had they asked for $1 for the course, I would not have signed up, knowing that there was a very high probability that I wouldn’t be able to attend.  […]

    Pingback by MOOC humor | Massively MOOC | Scoop.it — 2012 July 28 @ 20:52 | Reply

  4. […] textbooks, rather than a better way of offering courses. (And by “expensive”, I mean expensive to produce, not expensive to consume, as MOOCs are currently heavily subsidized by their producers as an […]

    Pingback by MOOC game « Gas station without pumps — 2012 November 27 @ 15:48 | Reply


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