Massive open online courses (MOOCs) continue to cause lively discussions on campuses across the country.  This recent article by Ry Rivard entitled “MOOC-Skeptical Provosts”  highlights an effort by provosts of Big 10 universities and the University of Chicago to make a statement of their own – and take control of the conversation.moocs_logo1 - www.stonybrook.edu

Appearing in Inside Higher ED, the article cites a position paper entitled “CIC Online Learning Collaboration: A Vision and Framework” that while supportive of  “emerging instructional strategies,”  voices obvious skepticism about the “hype about massive open online courses, or MOOCs.”   The provosts convey their shared concerns as well as offer their own plan to create an online education network across their campuses in what sounds like direct competition to commercial providers.

Simply stated the issue is control and these university provosts fear that they are losing it to the companies that are providing MOOC and other online courses.  Karen Hanson, University of Minnesota Provost, and the current the chairwoman of the CIC (Committee on Institutional Cooperation) is quoted in the article as saying that an in-house system could be “much more cost-effective” than relying on outside providers and would jibe with the provosts’ interest in “keeping higher education in control of higher education.” Interestingly, the article notes that up to this point, “a sixth of MOOC provider Coursera’s courses are created by faculty at CIC member institutions.”   However, now such partnerships are being questioned and are  being viewed in some quarters as temporary experiments.

These provosts represent some of the largest research institutions in the country. Does their emerging strategy represent a seismic shift in the way MOOCs are perceived and if/how they are delivered? What does it mean for educational entrepreneurs who are providing MOOCs and other online courses? How about publishers who were hoping that MOOCs might offer a brand new market for educational materials. How will faculty react? And what will it mean for the libraries at these institutions? What level of support, if any, will be expected as these online offerings evolve and are more tightly identified with their parent institutions? 

MOOC-Skeptical Provosts is a timely article that raises these and other challenging questions.   Given the importance of the issues we’d love to hear your personal views on this piece.  Please feel free to chime in on the questions we’ve raised as well as voicing your own queries and concerns. 

We look forward to hearing what you have to say!