Author: Rachelle Peterson

Rachelle Peterson is a research associate at the National Association of Scholars.

Book burning

The Slow Fade of Academic Freedom

The greatest threats to academic freedom come from academics themselves, not from their students or from politicians.  That provocative claim is the thesis of Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity: Confronting the Fear of Knowledge, an important new book by Joanna Williams slated for publication by Palgrave Macmillan in January 2016. Williams, who directs the […]

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DIVESTERS: NO FREE SPEECH FOR OPPONENTS

Student activists pressing universities to divest from fossil fuels are of two minds about free speech. They want it for themselves, but don’t seem keen on allowing it for opponents. The divestment movement didn’t invent free-speech hypocrisy, but divestment activists offer a range of old and new reasons as to why opposing views should not […]

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big_blue_marble_apollo17

The Remarkable Class of 2015 Must Save the Planet

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all commencement speeches say more or less the same thing.    All that really changes in the annual dusting off of “follow your heart,” “fix the world,” and “dare to face the great challenges” is the precise address of the heartfelt, world-fixing, great challenge that lies ahead.  The space […]

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Nudging

‘Nudging’ Goes to College

Classical economics went wrong at its first turn, say Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler. Man is not homo economicus, the rationally calculating actor that the dismal scientists from Adam Smith down through Milton Friedman supposed our species to be. No, we are emotionally driven, contextually influenced, socially conditioned: Humans, not Econs. Sunstein and Thaler famously […]

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Hamstringing Online Colleges

Federal rules for state authorization of online college teaching raise some odd questions. Why is Massachusetts charging $40,000 for an online college to hire a work-from-home professor living on the Vermont-Massachusetts border? Why does North Carolina demand a $37,000 fee before allowing administrators with a distance learning university to meet prospective students face to face? […]

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MOOCs–What You Need to Know about Them Now

If you can’t beat them, join them. So seems to be the MOOC mantra now that “tsunami” hype is fading. Gone is talk of do-it-yourself education replacing credit hours and diplomas en masse. Now MOOC providers are developing elements of the structure of the traditional institutions they once challenged, and focusing predominantly on niche tech […]

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How MOOCs Threaten Your Privacy

If you take a MOOC in statistics to demonstrate your mastery of regression analyses and forecasting, you might get promoted at work. You might also become a statistic yourself. MOOC providers and their third-party consultants collect and mine the massive amounts of data their courses generate. Accordingly, parents, teachers, and legislators are increasingly concerned about […]

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Are College Degrees the New Taxi Medallions?

In 2011 two of New York City’s prized taxi car medallions sold for $1 million dollars apiece. In June 2013, another went for $1,050,000. These high prices weren’t terribly surprising, since taxi drivers can only legally pick up passengers if they possess medallions. Some are beginning to think of college degrees in similar terms. As […]

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Faculty Are Increasingly Skeptical about MOOCs

Two years after MOOCs grabbed higher-ed headlines and recession-battered students began calling for cheaper college options, what do professors think of online education? According to Inside Higher Ed’s 2014 survey of faculty attitudes on technology, they’re cautiously becoming more hopeful about its success, if education consists in conveying information. But they’re increasingly skeptical about its […]

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How Radicals Hijacked Environmentalism

A 14-year old Colorado boy with an Aztec name travels the world with his younger brother, 11, as a missionary for “global sustainability,” rapping, dancing and speaking for Earth Guardians, a group he directs. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is not descended from Aztecs, the bloody tyranny that ruled central Mexico for several centuries until Cortes and his Native […]

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MOOCs Will Cost You

The debut of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in 2011 created high hopes. The cost-free, admissions-free courses defied administrative oversight and were expected to make education accessible to those least able to afford it. As thousands signed up for classes, course sizes swelled to tens, even hundreds times the size of their counterparts on campus. […]

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Is This The Future of MOOCs?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) provider Coursera wants to change the way we think about the revolutionary learning platform. In response to arguments that MOOCs are too impersonal, in November it announced partnerships with nine institutions that would create thirty “learning hubs,” where students taking the same MOOC could physically meet to discuss the course […]

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Climate Activism: a March of True Believers

The New School prides itself as an epicenter of progressivism, so it’s fitting that its 31st annual Social Research conference focused on a beloved progressive cause: sustainability. Sustainability pairs environmentalism with social activism. It takes aim at the free market, which it holds responsible for destroying the environment. It also takes aim at traditional social structures (especially “the patriarchy”) […]

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MOOCs Are Not the Future

If you take a train from Spain to France, you’ll halt at the border, exit the train, and board another train on the other side. The stop isn’t an exercise in border security. There’s a much smaller reason: 237 millimeters, to be exact. In Spain, most trains run on a gauge of 1672 millimeters, while in […]

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Why MOOCs Are Bound to Disappoint

This week I watched the eighth and final set of lectures for “Introduction to Sustainability,” the Coursera MOOC I’ve been taking and chronicling over the past few weeks. This week’s topic was “measuring sustainability.” Seated before a camera, a photo of Utah’s Arches National Park behind him, Professor Tomkin opened his lecture just as he’s […]

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MOOCs Can’t Build Student Community

One of the biggest challenges MOOCs face is facilitating community and conversations among students. The MOOC I’m taking, “Introduction to Sustainability,” has three main kinds of discussion forums where students can start conversation “threads” and respond to others: 1) one for general discussion in which people post about anything they think is relevant; 2) video […]

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I Go Deeper into the MOOC

Last week, in the first post of a series chronicling my experiences in the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign’s MOOC “Introduction to Sustainability,” I noted the Darwinian structure of the course. Now more than half-way through the class, I tweak that statement slightly. Survival of the fittest isn’t the right metaphor to describe the winnowing of […]

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The MOOC Chronicles, Part 1:
Are MOOCs Sustainable?

Does the college classroom have a “carrying capacity”? The term refers to the theoretical maximum population that a particular environment can nourish (or carry) for an extended period.  I’ve been learning about it in “Introduction to Sustainability,” an eight-week MOOC offered on Coursera by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I’m taking the MOOC both because I’m interested in the sustainability dogma on college campuses, and because I’d […]

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Have MOOCs Replaced the Classroom?

Clayton Christensen’s 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, posed the question, why do good companies fail? In industries ranging from computers to telephones to cameras to stock markets, the companies that monitored market trends, tended to their customers, and invested in high-returning capital capsized in a sea of start-up innovations (PCs, cell phones, digital cameras, and online markets, in these cases). […]

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The Future of MOOCs

The disappointing early performance of MOOCs has tempered predictions of academia’s wholesale collapse. So where will these behemoths find their place in the landscape of higher-ed? Well-financed by investors, relatively popular among administrators, and attractive to millions of course registrants, MOOCs are not likely to face extinction. Their future probably lies somewhere between adapting to […]

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Are MOOCs Only For the Rich?

Is a MOOC more like an ATM or an American Express Centurian card? The former provides a service to everyone with a bank account. The latter serves a smaller niche of the prosperous few. Like an ATM, MOOCs are automated dispensers providing accessible, on-demand service to thousands of users. They faithfully output course material, input […]

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Is the MOOC Revolution Over?

One of the architects of the MOOC revolution has decided that the movement should go in a different direction. In a lengthy interview with Fast Company, Sebastian Thrun, the inventor of the MOOC platform Udacity, announced that he’s shelving his original goal to displace traditional higher education by delivering free online courses to millions of […]

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Why Do Students Drop Out of MOOCs?

The perceived threat of a MOOC tsunami presumes that vast numbers of students will opt for supersized online courses in place of smaller, traditional classrooms. And so far, millions have already enrolled in MOOCs. The platform is versatile and the course offerings broad. Mid-career professional development? Check. Remedial classes at community colleges? Check. Elite DIY-Ivies […]

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Is the MOOC Moment Now?

As Georgia Tech gears up for its new MOOC-like master’s degree program slated to launch this spring, the Wall Street Journal reports that applications from would-be students are dramatically outpacing fall ’13 applications to Georgia Tech’s residential program. Offered jointly by the Georgia Institute of Technology and Udacity, with financial support and “advice” from AT&T, […]

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What Do MOOCs Cost?

The “Massive” in MOOC refers to class size, but one might think it stands for cost savings as well. MOOCs are free for students who register and cheap for those who seek credit. Few colleges and universities plan to grant credit for MOOCs, but of those who do, the cost to the student is typically a […]

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Google Hops on the MOOC Bandwagon

Google is always trying to expand our access to information, so it’s no surprise that it’s teaming up with the MOOC platform EdX to create Open EdX, a website that will open up the MOOC-building process to anyone with a message, an Internet connection, and a few pieces of hardware. “All of us are learners […]

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What Do Professors Think of MOOCs?

Tepid. Even disapproving. That’s the state of many professors’ attitudes towards MOOCs, according to Inside Higher Ed‘s 2013 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology, released on the IHE website on Tuesday. That reaction isn’t surprising, given fears that MOOCs will wipe out hordes of academic jobs. Plus, I’d like to think, professors who’ve spent their […]

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The Unexpected Resistance to MOOCs

When Stanford president John Hennessey told the New Yorker in April 2012, “There’s a tsunami coming,” he wasn’t forecasting the next undersea earthquake. Rather, he predicted a seismic collision between academia’s cost and availability. After David Brooks borrowed the metaphor for a New York Times op-ed, “tsunami” became synonymous with the rise of the MOOC (massive open online courses). These massive […]

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Why ‘Unschooling’ Doesn’t Work

Quitting school is suddenly popular. The “un-schooling movement,” which claims that school is too expensive, too disengaged from the job market, and too elitist for smart, independent youth, has become the darling of hipsters, free spirits, and do-it-yourself-ers everywhere. Take Dale Stephens, the twenty-year-old entrepreneur who was home-schooled until age twelve and educated himself using […]

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Students Stand Up for Love

A courageous group of students are using Valentine’s Day to protest the hook-up culture. At twenty-five schools, students from the Love and Fidelity Network are holding a week-long campaign called “Words that Still Matter.” On Monday they hung 4,400 posters around their campuses, placed ads in their student newspapers, and began inundating social media with […]

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