So a lot has been said about the problems that Coursera ran into with a recent MOOC “stumble.” The anti-MOOC crowd is screaming “I told you so”, while the pro-MOOC crowd is brushing it off as “just a risk that we take with experimentation.” At first I was trying to figure out what the big deal was – courses get cancelled all the time, often for no reason. I have even heard of MOOCs getting cancelled for various reasons, too. Why the fuss here?
Part of it is probably because of the way it happened, but I think the real reason is a bit larger in scope: the magic savior/disruptor of higher education, the promised one that was to come and fulfill all prophecies and lead us into a glorious new educational future – has proven to be just as fallible as any other tool or idea.
Maybe we are beginning to realize that the problem with education today is not necessarily the system or the structure or the pedagogy or the tools, but it is the people using those systems, structures, pedagogies, and tools incorrectly. Maybe we are now realizing that our awesome ideas that will destroy higher ed can themselves be misused in the wrong hands. Maybe we are beginning to realize that the people in charge of cool, new hip systems can make just as bone-headed decisions as the suit and tie guys in charge of academia if they don’t have the correct information.
Maybe it is time to realize that the road to true revolution in academia is not about disruption or trying to recreate the “mp3 of the educational world” or even about revolution at all. Maybe it is about spending the time to train people correctly in how to use the correct tools in the correct way. Maybe it is time to stop making fun of the people that are calling for research into new ideas by saying that they are “resisting the inevitable future” (sometime research reveals that new ideas are good – so its not like people calling for research are resisting new ideas). Because I am starting to think that the only inevitable thing about the future is that we will be doomed to repeat the past if we don’t learn from it. This whole scenario with Coursera seems to just be us repeating past mistakes because we didn’t try to learn from them along the way.
Maybe it is time to stop looking at mistakes as something to be discarded and start looking at the them as something to learn from and possibly even improve upon.