Who Are MOOCs Most Likely to Help?

Ann McClure's picture
Thursday, December 20, 2012

If you've become a true believer in the power of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other "disruptive" web-based programs to break the cost spiral of higher education, you should read the excellent analysis by two writers of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Scott Carlson and Goldie Blumenstyk, "For Whom Is College Being Reinvented?" They're not against MOOCs, certificates, and other alternatives to conventional schools for students with solid secondary backgrounds. But they make the excellent point that these appeal most to the families that need them least and are best able to sort out the high-quality programs from the dubious ones.

Carlson and Blumenstyk's sources agree that, for a growing number of students in colleges with minimal endowments, web-based courses just aren't enough:

Here's the cruel part: The students from the bottom tier are often the ones who need face-to-face instruction most of all.

"The idea that they can have better education and more access at lower cost through massive online courses is just preposterous," says Patricia A. McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University. Seventy percent of her students are eligible for Pell Grants, and 50 percent come from the broken District of Columbia school system. ...

Read more »