"In short, there are political and economic machinations associated with the stirring of interest in, and coverage of, MOOCs. Given this, and given the stakes at hand, it is important to address the MOOCs phenomenon is a serious, sustained, and reflective way, not in a knee jerk fashion, one way or the other."
This is an article I failed to notice when it came out, January 27th 2013, but still it is well worth mentioning. It was prompted by an article by Thomas Friedman ("The World is Flat") in the New York Times (http://tiny.cc/jyvhsw) and by a Moody's report on MOOCs (cf. http://tiny.cc/dsvhsw). Kris Olds tries to put some realism into the overly enthusiastic reports on MOOCs that have appeared, particulary the one by Friedman.
First, he argues, the upscaling that MOOCs promise is less simple than Friedman suggests: the world is not flat but spiky, with lots of differences between people in their ability to actually take a MOOC (technical, in terms of learning capabilities). Second, the investments needed to set up a MOOC are high, even though the running costs may be low. So not everybody will be able to develop a MOOC. And finally, MOOCs have become part of a political discussion, with their potential to cut costs and thus lower public university funding, which in turn means less taxes. MOOCs thus are a politized platform, and indeed they are. But they are not just so in an economic sense. As I have argued earlier elsewhere (http://tiny.cc/e4uhsw), they are also subject to political debate in view of their capacity to upset the philosphy that underlies our higher education system. MOOCs have the potential to turn higher education into a commodity, a private good, subjected to the laws of the market economy. That is a revolution indeed, considering that at present higher education is a public good, depending on where you live fully or in part. (@pbsloep)