Disruptive Innovation or Distracting Technology?

Robert L. Jackson

Last week’s “Minding the Campus” posted an essay by economist Richard Vedder (Ohio University) focusing on the immense value of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).  According to Vedder, now that most of the Ivy League has joined the cause, this “disruptive innovation” within higher education—as Harvard’s Clayton Christenson describes it—should enable the market to close inefficient colleges and universities, while producing the best in high-quality lectures, assignments, etc. 

On the whole, Vedder is genuinely impressed with the kind of offerings available from Coursera, Udacity, edX et al., though he does have a few reservations: how to produce the hands-on aspects of science education—i.e., the laboratory apprenticeship; how to produce the lived, social experience of educational communities; and how to produce the essential, recognizable forms of credentialing.  That's quite a few concessions.  But, to the question of credentialing, Vedder foresees the introduction of a national exit examination that could be used by anyone—college degree-holder or ‘MOOC scholar’—to demonstrate competency, and cull through the clutter of higher education.  So, for Vedder, the future looks bright, indeed:

Bottom line: Plato was right in saying that necessity (high college costs) is the mother of invention (MOOCs). I think there is a very strong probability that MOOCs and related efforts such as Saylor and StraighterLine will have a major, positive impact on American higher education.

Inventive technology, to be sure.  But, the real question is whether Plato would take his Academy online...

  • Share

Most Commented

June 13, 2022

1.

Regime Change: Repelling the DEI Assault on Higher Education

The last few decades have seen a total transformation of higher education's mission in American society. What was once an institution that encouraged innovation, built character, and sou......

May 12, 2022

2.

Mornin’ Ralph, Mornin’ Sam in Anthropology Today

Professor Lowrey recounts her latest encounter with academic cancel culture, this time with an acceptance-turned-rejection at Anthropology Today....

May 31, 2022

3.

Can America’s Colleges and Universities Be Saved?

We urge American citizens and policymakers to reform our higher education system while there is still time....

Most Read

June 13, 2022

1.

Regime Change: Repelling the DEI Assault on Higher Education

The last few decades have seen a total transformation of higher education's mission in American society. What was once an institution that encouraged innovation, built character, and sou......

May 15, 2015

2.

Where Did We Get the Idea That Only White People Can Be Racist?

A look at the double standard that has arisen regarding racism, illustrated recently by the reaction to a black professor's biased comments on Twitter....

June 21, 2022

3.

Press Release: Confucius Institutes Rebrand to Circumvent U.S. Policy, Report Finds

A new report from the National Association of Scholars finds that colleges and universities continue to host Chinese-funded programs similar to Confucius Institutes under new names......