Promoters of MOOCs and online courses make big promises about the value of this latest trend in higher education.
MOOCs and online courses, we are told, will both expand access to higher education and reduce its costs for just about every “stakeholder”–for institutions lacking the resources to provide needed courses, for governments hard-pressed to provide adequate funding, and for students and their families, who have paid the price of inadequate public funding through skyrocketing tuition and mushrooming debt.
Behind these big promises, however, are some harsh realities.
Like the rhetorical strategies used to legitimate for-profit colleges and the subprime mortgage industry, promoters of MOOCs and online learning invariably wrap both in populist rhetoric. The strategy is so consistent and so powerful that even to raise questions about this latest trend, it is implied, is to question the value of expanding access to higher education itself and to position critics on…
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