MOOCs have become a media obsession. Why?
In part because they are the continuation of a story that has been around since at least the 1990s and the first days of magazines like Wired and Fast Company. At that time, information technology was depicted as part of a revolution: Marxist rhetoric had been appropriated by capitalism. Information technology would change everything through a peculiar mix of a corporate charge and evangelism, expanded profit opportunities and enlightenment.
I’d like to think that since then we’ve learned something. Information technology changes some things, for sure. But it doesn’t change everything.
After all, universities have produced a substantial body of research that argues that information technology is not an epochal economy-changing technology. Universities have also carried out a great deal of research that examines in detail what information technology changes and what it doesn’t, informed by minute ethnographic studies. Again, universities have produced a large body of research on how users are configured so that they suit the technology. And, of course, universities have produced a large body of research that actually led to the invention of the gadgets and codes and data that now populate the world. I could go on....