Back in August last year, I wrote a piece on How MOOCs Could Kill Higher Education. In the scenario presented, the first step was this:
In public education, the problem has the potential to get bad quite quickly. Imagine a legislature that says that the state colleges must provide a path to credit through MOOCs offered by accredited institutions. Suddenly the easy, profitable stuff is gone, and even at existing tuition rates colleges will be bleeding red ink.
I’ve been trying to highlight this with administrators and faculty I talk to who shrug of MOOCs as a fad, and with pundits who roll their eyes at it all. Maybe MOOCs are a fad — but the policy changes they leave in their wake have ramifications we will be living with for decades. We are a set of institutions based on some very weird bundling of high and low-cost services, bundling that only makes sense in the current policy environment. Pull that policy out, and the Jenga tower gets rickety real fast.
Hate to say I told you so, but, well:
Under the proposed plan, wait-listed students would be able to take online classes that have been approved by California’s Open Education Resources Council…. Students would have to take proctored, in-person exams to pass the courses. Public colleges and universities in California would be required to accept those courses for credit..the organizations providing the courses would not have to be accredited colleges and universities. They could be MOOCs, or low-cost course providers like StraighterLine, or perhaps a venture led by textbook companies whose offerings increasingly blur the distinction between textbook and course.
This won’t end at wait-listed students. Keep in mind, this is the Democratic version of the plan, by a fairly progressive guy, a former employee rights attorney. The other versions are coming. The other states will begin to jump in. What starts as a plan to help wait-listed students will quickly gain steam as a “solution” to the “higher education crisis.” And due to the particular economics of bundling, it puts the entire architecture of higher education in jeopardy.
And it will likely succeed. It will likely succeed because it aligns the liberal technocracy with the anti-government right. And things that do that almost always succeed.
It’s time to start pitching alternate visions of how this might work, before we get run over by this.