In the MIT Technology Review, Justin Pope takes a look at the less obvious, and perhaps unintended, educational merits of MOOCs:
For some people, especially adults in search of continuing education, even dropping out of a MOOC may well be a kind of victory—over an old model of credit-hours and semester-long courses that makes no sense for them. If they want to see whether they’d be interested in a topic, or just want snippets of material, why should they pay for, and sit through, an entire 12-week syllabus?
For all the hype, MOOCs are really just content—the latest iteration of the textbook. And just like a book on a library shelf, they can be useful to a curious passerby thumbing through a few pages—or they can be the centerpiece to a well-taught course. On their own, MOOCs are hardly more likely than textbooks to re-create a quality college education in all its dimensions.
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