Yesterday, I paid the fifteen bucks to renew this domain. I’d originally thought that I’d let it go, as the MOOC monster seemed to have return to the depths. Although the big MOOC startups – Coursera and Udacity – have raised millions of dollars, with the latter becoming one of the rare “unicorns” in ed-tech, news about the disruptive potential of MOOCs had subsided.
But in the last couple of weeks, the MOOC monster has started to re-emerge. There have been a number of stories – once again – on how MOOCs will revolutionize education in the developing world.
This argument isn’t particularly new. Some of the earliest claims made about MOOCs invoked phrases like “the democratization of education.” And when edX, Udacity, and Coursera executives spoke (particularly at elite events like the World Economic Forum in Davos), they would often showcase successful, star students from places like South Africa, Mongolia, and Pakistan in order to boast about the fulfillment of that MOOC promise.
There has been some writing about MOOCs as imperialism, and I think it would be a mistake to talk about MOOCs alone as part of, more broadly, ed-tech’s imperialism. Bridge International Academies is perhaps the least known and most powerful example of a venture-backed startup that’s seeking to automate education in the developing world (with recent news that it’s taking over the public school system in Liberia). And of course, there’s the global behemoth Pearson. (See Anya Kamenetz’s article in Wired: “Pearson’s Quest to Cover the Planet in Company-Run Schools.”)
(Pearson has long been the main investor in the fund that powers the venture firm Learn Capital. It recently raised another fund from the investment arm of the World Bank.)
So while I wish we could say that the MOOC monster has been vanquished, I think MOOCthulhu is still poised to destroy worlds, particularly developing worlds. So this site stays up so that the monster can be monitored.