Complacency is one of the most deadly and damaging afflictions, whether it involves the behavior of an individual, a business organization or even a university.
It was disappointing to read of the reaction of several Kansas University faculty members or administrators relative to whether KU soon may become more engaged or participate in the massive open online course, or MOOC, program that is spreading across the country and being used by hundreds of thousands of students.
The KU position, according to those questioned a few days ago, is “wait and see.” In fact, at this time, KU has no plans to participate in the program. Universities such as Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, California-Berkeley and Princeton have jumped on the MOOC program, but KU has no plans to join at this time.
It’s interesting that Fort Hays State University, under the visionary leadership of President Ed Hammond, is investigating MOOCs and working on a plan by which it might be able to offer academic credit to those participating in a MOOC program from one of the elite schools.
KU should be on the forefront of new academic programs, not lagging behind. Maybe MOOCs will turn out to be a flop, but shouldn’t the response of KU officials to the question of whether they plan to become engaged in the program be something like, “It’s an interesting concept. Of course we are looking at it to see whether this is something we should embrace,” rather than offering reasons it doesn’t measure up in their eyes or that they will wait and see if it merits their attention later.
At a time when KU officials are justifiably pleased with recent enrollment numbers, wouldn’t it seem wise to send the message to students and their parents that KU intends to be on the cutting edge of providing the best possible educational opportunities?
Courses taught by some of this nation’s most outstanding scholars should be of interest to the type of students KU is trying to attract. Not long ago, KU officials made a major and successful effort to elevate academic requirements for those seeking admission to KU.
MOOCs are free and available to anyone. The current knock on the courses is that there is no way, at the present time, to receive academic credit for them. Nevertheless, the program is growing, and students and non-students are jumping at the opportunity to participate in lectures by faculty at some of this nation’s outstanding universities.
Not long ago, a distinguished KU faculty member said KU was in serious danger of being outdated and bypassed by the MOOC schools. He said KU should be giving much more attention to building the excellence of its graduate programs and less emphasis on the undergraduate or freshman/sophomore levels. He suggested MOOCs are right down the alley for undergraduate programs, and that KU and other similar schools should be building the excellence of their graduate programs.
If there is some way to figure out how to give academic credit for MOOCs, this would be a tremendously damaging blow to the undergraduate numbers at a school like KU. Aside from the enjoyment of being an undergraduate college student — football games, fraternity and sorority party life, the “university experience,” getting away from home and making new friends — is there any reason a talented young man or woman intent on obtaining an excellent college education wouldn’t choose to sign up for a number of MOOCs being taught by some of the nation’s most outstanding schools?
What would this do to undergraduate numbers at KU? How would it affect student housing needs, undergraduate classrooms and faculty numbers?
As noted above, Fort Hays officials have been working on this project for some time. They have not adopted the “wait and see” approach and they are working with some of the prestigious universities engaged with MOOCs to see whether there is a way to forge an arrangement whereby they could offer academic credit for MOOCs.
Has the Kansas Board of Regents taken a position on MOOCs or do they leave this in the hands of the chancellor and presidents? Who decides whether to have state universities be in the forefront or lagging behind and trying to play catch up?
Perhaps some on Mount Oread see no reason to be overly concerned about MOOCs, but there are distinguished professors who are concerned, deeply concerned.
For years, KU was recognized as a leader, a true leader, an innovator whose leaders sought ways to elevate the school to higher and more lofty academic and research goals.
Seldom did they adopt a wait-and-see attitude. KU was a school other schools wanted to emulate; it was a leader.
MOOCs may turn out to be merely a fad, but what if they aren’t and KU has not planned for the likely repercussions?