Again, a MOOC that is truly open and free—and high quality—is a wonderful addition to the public sphere, a boon to students who are poorly served by the present system. And polemics like Shirky’s get traction because his complaints about the status quo are grounded in real problems (albeit problems created by the same financiers and politicians who now propose to solve them). But if we blow up the status quo, the fact that the future could potentially be better doesn’t mean it couldn’t also be much worse. That the glass is half-empty is not an argument for dumping it out. Do we know where the new water is going to come from? Making grand predictions about what MOOC’s could be—while merrily destroying the actually-existing thing it might potentially replace—is a recipe for disaster.
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