Alert readers may wonder why I seem so obsessed by MOOCs,

particularly as at UNB they are, as yet, only a twinkle in the eyes of one or two BoG members. And particularly as they seem to promise so much in terms of increased access to higher education.

To address the latter point: I think we would be very foolish to confuse the promise and potential of MOOCs with the probable reality. Potentially, they could presage a vast democratization in higher education and a revitalization of how we teach; in fact, however, they are an entrepreneurial venture promoted by people who want to “monetize” educational “assets.” Any long-term effects on higher education are irrelevant; never mind thinking about seven generations: some people can’t think seven minutes into the future. Implemented for the wrong reasons and handled badly, as they inevitably will be, MOOCs will be worse than just another boondoggle, because the whole MOOC hysteria, if it continues and enough decision-makers are convinced, has the potential to undermine our already teetering post-secondary system yet further: further casualization of academic labour, further polarization between elite and other institutions, shrinkage of access to campus-based education, job loss, degradation of academic research and dissemination of knowledge to “content provision”, division of “content generation” and “content provision”: and the list goes on.

All this is not to say that university instructors should shy away from the possibilities of new technologies. University instructors should not. Universities should, however, other than facilitating their employees’ use of such technologies. A perversely arcane position, I know, to claim that university ancillary functions should exist first and foremost to support the work of academic staff. I’m sure the reader can just imagine the incredulous smile on the face of their favourite administrator, should the latter chance to hear such a sentiment expressed. Keep that vision in your mind when you contemplate the possibilities for MOOCs. Or for anything else, for that matter. Cui bono? And, who holds the reins?

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