Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Online classes fuel a campus debate

By Tamar Lewin

The announcement in May that Coursera, which offers free college classes online, had signed agreements with state universities enrolling more than a million students made it plain that such courses, virtually unheard-of two years ago, are now part of the higher education mainstream.

But along the way, a rancorous debate has emerged over whether such courses will lead to better learning, lower costs and higher graduation rates — or to the dismantling of public universities, downgraded or eliminated faculty jobs, and a second-class education for most students.

Many universities have been quick to sign up with outside providers to offer the “massive open online courses,” known as MOOCs, either as stand-alone courses or in a hybrid format, with the online materials supplemented by a local faculty member. While they portray their online offerings as exploratory, many administrators hope the courses will help them expand their reach, rein in tuition and offer better instruction.

Now a new discussion has begun about whether universities should collaborate to develop and share their courses and technology, rather than working with outside providers. This week, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a group of provosts from Big 10 universities, issued a position paper saying that higher education must take advantage of new education technology — but perhaps on its own. On a small scale, CIC members’ CourseShare program already does that, with members sharing classes in less commonly taught languages.

“Many of us feel more comfortable building our own infrastructure, rather than relying on a for-profit company,” said Karen Hanson, provost of the University of Minnesota and the committee’s chairwoman. “We think we want to remain in control of our own intellectual property.”

Like most of the universities in the group, the University of Minnesota currently is a partner with Coursera, with five courses being offered and five more in the works. “Coursera shares a lot of our values, and the faculty members involved have keen interest in experimenting with that format,” the provost said.

Daphne Koller, the Stanford computer science professor who is a founder of Coursera, said she thought the CIC paper represented an exploratory discussion driven by anxieties about how online education would change higher education. Coursera’s contract with its CIC partners, she said, leaves them full control over their content, including all rights and usage. In addition, most universities’ software infrastructure is provided by technology companies.

“Tech companies generally produce better code,” she said. “And I think when they consider it, most universities will not see any advantage in duplicating that work.”

On many campuses, faculty oppose the spread of MOOCs, angry that their universities joined in with little consultation, undercutting the tradition of shared governance. Others argue that MOOCs will shortchange students, replacing the personal relationships that encourage learning.

In April, Duke University pulled out of Semester Online, a consortium of universities sharing online courses, hosted by 2U, the online education platform, after the faculty voted down the project.

At San Jose State University, which has led the way in allowing the MOOCs to be used for credit, the philosophy department last month wrote an open letter to Michael Sandel, a Harvard professor whose online justice course it refused to use, laying out its concerns about the impact of such courses.

“Let us not kid ourselves,” the letter said, “administrators at CSU are beginning a process of replacing faculty with cheap online education.”

Last week, San Jose State suspended its online courses after more than half of the students failed the final exams.

This spring, the Amherst faculty voted against joining edX, the nonprofit Harvard-MIT collaboration, and 58 Harvard faculty members sought the creation of a new committee to consider the effect online courses will have on higher education.

Jonathan Rees, a history professor at Colorado State University at Pueblo, who has written critically about MOOCs, said their spread is likely to lead to a three-tiered world, with a few high-status “super professors” for whom the courses provide both status and royalties; a larger pool of tenured professors who continue to teach their regular in-person classes until they retire; and “a huge army of adjuncts and teaching assistants,” whose jobs will be vulnerable to online competition.

“The problem with this MOOC-as-labor-issue argument is that it has no place for students and learning,” said Phil Hill, an education technology consultant. “Our starting point ought to be what students need and whether this is an effective form of learning.”

Many educators say that high-quality online materials can help students learn, just like a high-quality textbook.

“The issue in higher education is how we get to scale,” said M. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. “The question now is how long it’s going to take for faculty members to stop saying they can use the same textbooks as others at other institutions, but they can’t use the same lectures.”

All three of the leading MOOC providers — Coursera, edX and Udacity, another Stanford spinoff — started by offering courses free but with no credit, attracting millions of learners around the world. But all three are now adapting those courses, often in blended form, for use in public universities that will offer students credit and extra support — and bring the MOOC providers a steady revenue stream.

Coursera, which initially worked only with elite research universities, shifted gears after finding that most students enrolled in its courses already had college degrees. Koller said she realized that to “move the needle” on the basic problems of American higher education — access and affordability — the company would have to work with the public universities that educate most college students.

New York Times News Service

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

 
Chuck Rairdan joins school board race

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

Going green at church, school, everywhere

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Former caretaker convicted of murder, elder abuse

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

Old friend helps Brad and others find kidneys

By Dave Jones | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
UCD to host Global Health Day event

By Cory Golden | From Page: A2

Ukraine insurgents reject call to quit buildings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 3 Comments

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

 
Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

‘Hitchhiking’ dog looking for new home

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Event to provide nature scholarship

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Online K-12 school holds info night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Schwenger lawn signs available

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

 
Volunteers needed for Grad Night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Davis grad makes rain collection a business

By Jason McAlister | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
A few spots left on history tour

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Chipotle fundraiser boosts Emerson tech upgrade

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Students have new options on leasing front

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Groups join for a day of service

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
NAMI backers walk in Sacramento

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
Food for the hungry

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

.

Forum

Dad makes mom look bad

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
In search of great ideas

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Please keep the nursery open

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Early help is a great investment

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

More tax money? Answer the question

By Rich Rifkin | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

 
UCD IS responsible for students

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

.

Sports

DHS’ Golston goes full-bore on the diamond

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Devils show more life in loss to Mitty

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Sharks double up Kings in Game 1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Aggies lose a slugfest in opener at Riverside

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Fox coming to UCD; Riffle heads to Florida

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

 
DYSA roundup: Intensity has big week; 10U games dominate schedule

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Sports briefs: Aggies set the academic bar high

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Pro baseball roundup: Susac sends Sacramento to a rare loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Arts

‘Transcendence’: A whole new level of tedium

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
‘The Bloom’ paves way for Whole Earth Festival

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

DHS tribute to Tony Fields slated for April 25-26

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
UCD, city team up for Music on the Green

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

.

Business

Ford turns its Focus to domestic market

By Ali Arsham | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, April 18, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A9

 
.

Real Estate Review

Featured Listing

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

Professional Services Directory

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

Lyon Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

Acacia at Huntington Square

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Jamie Madison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Yolo FCU

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Travis Credit Union

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

Kim Eichorn

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Suzanne Kimmel

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Lynne Wegner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Kim Merrel Lamb

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Patricia Echevarria

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Chris Snow

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Andrew Dowling

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Sheryl Patterson

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Don Guthrie

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

Heather Barnes

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

Julie Partain & Dick Partain

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

Malek Baroody

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER13

Karen Waggoner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Willowbank Park

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Team Traverso

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Julie Leonard

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Tim Harrison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Tracy Harris

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Lori Prizmich

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Joe Kaplan

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Raul Zamora

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

Open House Map

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

F1rst Street Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20