I remember sitting in my graduate school class watching a daunting online video that threatened the need for student affairs professionals. The video described how Massive Open Online Courses would allow the faculty member to freely teach whatever they wanted and allow the students to learn college-based knowledge without paying the price to attend a physical institution. Although I can understand the fear younger student affairs professionals are having after just graduating with debt and an education degree, professionals should take time to more deeply understand how such courses would affect American higher education.
A Technology Analogy: Before we consider if this fear is warranted, one should search if there have been other concepts in the technological era that were introduced to the general public to be a free, easily accessible, and legitimate alternative to whatever those concepts were suppose to replace? Let’s take, as an example, a tool that we use on a consistent basis… Microsoft Office. As some of you may know, there is an alternative called Open Office that provides an “open source” package to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentation files. Considering it has been available to users for quite some time, one could speculate why many official organizations are not choosing this alternative for professional usage. This, especially since you could pretty much do the same tasks while cutting administrative cost. It could be argued that the more expensive Microsoft Office holds a higher standard of service and eases concerns of compatibility between computers/networks. Although one could argue Google Drive (formerly Docs) would be a counter point to this argument, one must remember Google utilizes fee based additions to the services it provides along with consumers (knowingly or not) sacrificing their privacy by utilizing such products.
Analogy-MOOCs Connection: In a way, the current “traditional” higher education institutions are much like Microsoft Office and MOOCs are the Open Office Counterparts. Sure, does it not sound easy for students to merely take courses without any regulations or higher education professionals telling students what type of bureaucracy they must go through? This could also be a great alternative for some faculty members who disagree with their institutions emphasis on restricted academic research funding for student affairs support. However, assessment can be shown that the degree of a high achieving institution holds more economic and social weight and that the lack of services provided by professionals can create administrative chaos when a student is trying to validate his/her education. This does not mean one cannot be successful if they do not go to college, but it does increase one’s likeliness to get where they want to go.
In today’s world, it is hard to understand why we constantly hear in a consistent basis the issues we have in higher education. However, just like how Rome was not built in a day, issues in our field are complex with numerous stakeholders involved. I must admit… I do get quite frustrated when ideas move slower than expected to come into fruition, but I also have to catch myself in knowing it takes time to get those stakeholders to buy into a particular idea that I may have.
Statements that I get out of MOOC Conversations:
1. Shows the need to assess issues and make action plans
2. Faculty and Staff need to realize they need to work together
3. There will always be a need for physical spaces in higher education
4. Not one institution will fit all students
5. Occasional panic about the fate of your career can be slightly healthy???
Now I ask you, are you worried about your career outlook?