Cory Leonard

MOOCs Are Usefully Middlebrow | Chronicle Review

In tech on May 24, 2014 at 7:00 am

Anant Agarwal: Why massively open online courses (still) matter

The problem with MOOCs is _____? Get ready for a  backlash, since for the last few years we have endured the prophetic declarations about how online learning would solve all problems.

Maybe the real issue is that they essentially useful–but  in a particular way, short of being revolutionary:

It’s easy to dismiss middlebrow culture. William James visited the Chautauqua Institute in 1896 and wrote that “the middle-class paradise” was “too tame, this culture too second-rate, this goodness too uninspiring.” Virginia Woolf waxed vitriolic: “If any human being, woman, man, dog, cat, or half-crushed worm dares call me \’middlebrow\’ I will take my pen and stab him, dead.\” Intellectuals and academics have been whaling on middlebrow culture since Dwight Macdonald\’s 1960 essay \”Masscult and Midcult.\”

The ambivalence is understandable. There is a dumbing down that\’s intrinsic to middlebrow efforts. Real scholarship, criticism, or commentary is slow, detailed, and difficult, even in the hands of the clearest teacher or smoothest writer, and very few of us are those. Middlebrow culture offers lists, hooks, easy handles, formulas in the place of getting to know a text, working through a problem, mastering a difficult philosophic chain of reasoning.

Still, I can\’t find it in me to dismiss the middlebrow. I vividly recall my mother, an underemployed Ph.D., frantically preparing to give a presentation to a book club on War and Peace, or rushing home from school to hear my father\’s lectures on world literature broadcast on WSUI, the radio station of the University of Iowa. Limited though it may be, the middlebrow enterprise is as inspiring as it is troubling. It is democracy at its best and its worst.

via MOOCs Are Usefully Middlebrow – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

 

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