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MOOCs and Consequences for the Future of Education

 Jeffrey R. Young and Charles Nesson  
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10 pages
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Workshop-Based Case Study
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“What are the essential components of a good quality education in a university?” the Department of Philosophy at San Jose State University asked Harvard professor Michael Sandel, the instructor for the free online course JusticeX. The department's open letter to Sandel culminated a few years in which massive open online courses, or MOOCs, were rapidly developed. Designed to solve the problem of educating the world, MOOCs offer free enrollment, video lectures, and online assignments; many offer certificates for a small fee or license their content to brick-and-mortar academic institutions. However, when the State of California considered constraints in its educational offerings and budget—proposing that MOOCs be accepted as college credit—the Department of Philosophy at San Jose State questioned whether MOOCs could and should substitute for classroom education.

This background note surveys the rise of industry leaders Coursera, Udacity, and EdX; outlines common MOOC business models; and provides context for the San Jose State open letter. Readers will find themselves prepared to adopt the position of a stakeholder and negotiate best practices for online education.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify a systematic approach to problem solving when faced with an unresolved issue or new situation.
  • Consider the role of cyberspace in expanding the public realm worldwide.
  • Consider the purpose of legal education as well as the repercussions and constraints of offering legal education online.
  • Analyze past approaches to solving the problem of educating the world.
  • Understand the points of view of various stakeholder groups and, in light of these perspectives, articulate best practices for free online education.

Subjects Covered

Legal education, online education, distance learning, academic technology, public education


Geographic: United States

Industry: Education, Technology

Event Start Date: 2011

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Additional Information

The Problem Solving Workshop: A Video Introduction

Is Online Education Supporting or Suppressing the Public Domain?

Case Studies in Cyber-Citizenship

Crash Course on Flipped Classrooms


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