Emmett Macfarlane: “Universities need to innovate, but put down the sledgehammer”

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Over on the Inside Agenda Blog, there is an excellent piece by Emmett Macfarlane, a professor at the University of Waterloo. In it, he explains that there is a need for universities to be innovative, but that the current proposals for change (such as MOOCs or teaching-only institutions) are not the panaceas they are made out to be. Moreover, the currently monologue around university reform ignores the great deal of innovation already occurring within our universities:

The biggest problem with reform proposals that demand wholesale change is that they ignore the extent to which universities are already adapting and innovating. The sudden, recent proliferation of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is a natural extension of the online courses that have been offered to university students for years. MOOCs are, by definition, designed to go beyond normal university enrollment and they provide unprecedented access to content previously only accessible to a privileged few. This is an excellent development for that reason, but MOOCs will not replace degree-granting educational streams. Further, online education can supplement, but cannot supplant, the value of face-to-face interaction that comes from human interaction, class discussions, seminar classes, honours thesis projects, research assistance, and the host of other opportunities that emanate from the physical classroom.

The whole piece is very thoughtful, and can be accessed here.

This article is crossposted with Academic Matters.

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