I was a little disappointed in Andrew Rice's story of UVA and Teresa Sullivan in last Sunday's New York Times. It didn't provide much new information or any new analysis. The online chattering class had already chewed that bone to its nub.
Well, I am not sure this conversation is entirely over. I think that there's something going on that we haven't really pinpointed yet.
MOOCs have been much discussed in the press by loads of folks. Including me. They aren't going to change education for most of our kids. In a few years, Jonah will be sitting in a classroom learning pretty much the same way that I learned and my mother learned before me. It does offer some potential for international students and continuing education types. It could cut into some of the bogus degrees offered by community colleges, though even that seems like a far off concern.
The part about MOOC is that the most fascinating is the branding aspect. Colleges are looking to expand their name recognition. They are selling their image of Ivy walls and tweed clad professors. There's profit there.
What are they are they going to do with this? Harvard sweatshirts and Columbia caps for sale at the mall? Or are they going to start absorbing the small, struggling colleges and slap their names on the front? Will they go into business selling lesser degrees – a Harvard-Lite degree – around the country? I'm not really sure.
The faculty certainly won the battle at UVA. Teresa Sullivan was reinstated and status quo continued. Somewhat. UVA is now offering MOOC courses, too. However, I'm not sure those who like the current model won the war. Something is going on, but I haven't put my finger on it yet.