One positive indirect outcome is the potential for MOOCs to ease the burden on community colleges. As budget crises plague states throughout the country, community colleges have taken a huge hit. At the same time, enrollment demand at these institutions has increased. The problem grew so severe for California that in 2009-10 the state turned away 140,000 prospective students. There seems to be a real possibility here that continuing education/job skills/hobbyist community college students (ie. the “organized and highly motivated” students Rooks mentions above) could move to MOOCs. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, noncredit earning students make up nearly 40 percent of enrollment (5 million students). If MOOCs go mainstream then this could ease the burden on community colleges and open up seats for underserved students. Of course, community colleges would need to shift their budgets and staffing away from these non-credit courses, but funds could then be allocated toward credit earning students and those who need (or prefer) the traditional classroom model.
Or at least that’s the unsubstantiated claim put forth in a recent US News & World Report article. According to Terry Wood of St. Mary’s Ryken (MD), there has been a “dramatic decline” in the writing abilities of her students “due to Tweeting, Facebook, and texting.” What strikes me as unfortunate, if not irresponsible, about this statement is the causal link Ms. Wood draws between social media and a decline in writing abilities (See: Correlation does not imply causation). Using only anecdotal evidence, she states (as fact) that social media is making our students terrible writers.
I just posted a blog examining the evolution of the term “digital native” in education over at edSocialMedia.
“I become apprehensive when I hear people tell me about how our students are all “digital natives.” My hesitation stems from the fact that some educators have twisted this buzzword beyond its original definition into a dangerous catchall. For some, the phrase is used to define our students as a monolithic group of tech gurus. At best, I think this tends to obfuscate students’ dearth of practical technological skills, and at worst, it leads to a conception that all students are technologically savvy.”
“This school year I embarked on a journey to introduce my students to Twitter. For the first three quarters of the year, I structured “Twitter projects” to supplement my in-class work and to provide additional support in meeting certain academic objectives. Throughout the course of the year, the number of tweets coming across steadily increased …With no ‘official’ fourth quarter Twitter project, our class feed sounded much different. Any tweets now coming across represented more of the proverbial “cricket” noise in an otherwise peaceful environment…”