"MOOCs aren't for the institutions," one speaker said. "They are for the students."
I agree with that, just as I agree the higher educational institutions should be there for the students also.
[ A right-wing conspiracy? Read Ed Tech, Privatization And Plunder. ]
"Which students?" I asked.
They both replied, "The students we hire."
Being the annoying inquisitor, I asked, "What do those students look like?" I received an interesting reply.
One of the gentlemen told me that they did not care if a student had an English literature course or a history minor. They didn't care about their study of philosophy or even mathematics. All they wanted to know was could this student code in Java. So I said, "automatons?"
This discussion just strengthened a sad position that I had already held. In this technology age, many companies and politicians want programmers in seats typing away at code. They don't care what programmers think, what they feel or what they can do outside of churning out code they are told to write. It has been and will continue to be the same in many industries. The manufacturing industry is a good example. As long as the "widgets" keep on coming off of the assembly line and wealth continues to be accumulated, why does it matter who that person is or could become with a great education? Remember that Apple 1984 TV ad? This take on education feels pretty Orwellian to me.
STEM (science, technology, engineering and medical) initiatives are pervasive in our schools. Because there is such a shortage of technology professionals in the U.S. workforce, we are seeing diminishing GDP (gross domestic product) that translates into widening trade imbalances with developing countries, greater domestic inflation and greater U.S. foreign debt. We are desperate for a solution to the problems we face in the U.S. and it is becoming clear that we view technology as our only way out of a dire economic situation in this country.
Let's be honest. In today's society, the betterment of education is not at the core of most software executives' motives nor the top of the agenda for most politicians. It is money, economic recovery and new industry. This is at the core of these groups interest in MOOCs and other online learning initiatives. It's not devious, nor is it pretty, but it is capitalism at its best -- like it or not.
Sadly, many of our best higher educational institutions felt they were so slow to adopt online learning that they were pummeled by for-profits providing flexible ways for people to get online degrees. When the MOOC idea was presented to them (by very good entrepreneurs originally from academe), I'm sure many had in their minds that they were not going to get beaten out again.