Monday, May 06, 2013

A thought about culture and MOOCS.

Movies, television, radio, recordings and now the Internet all are penetrating more and more deeply into our societies. Many nations are concerned that content from affluent countries is filling their media and their cultures are changing as a result. Indeed, I can see their point. Hollywood and Bollywood movies are likely to convey messages that the madrasas of Pakistan and Bangladesh don't teach. Some of the lyrics of rap music are causing indigestion here in the United States where the form and content originated, and are likely to do so for many in Africa. I would not be much concerned if the programs from American network television were not to be shown as widely in Latin America -- I don't watch them myself.

On the other hand, the growth of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) seems worthy of concern. MOOCS offer revolutionary improvements in education in developing nations as the students in those nations get access to the best instruction from the originating nations are very low or no cost. They are likely to be very widely used in the developing world. The changes that they will bring are likely to be positive overall. Kids will learn more science and better technological skills than they would otherwise; they will master mathematics in ways their elders were unable to do lacking good teachers.

The problem that I see is that the MOOCs will carry not only the nominal messages but hidden messages that will have strong cultural impact, and that some of that impact will be disliked by the members of the cultures that they change.

Major Players in Massive Open Online Courses
Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education

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