Wednesday, March 6, 2013

MOOCs and the Socratic Method

Here's an interesting reflection on MOOCs from Peter Lawler (at Berry College).  In considering the difference between MOOCs and Socratic-style learning, Lawler wonders how teachers or students would use  Michael Sandel's popular series of online lectures on justice.  Would watching Sandel be the homework?  Then we have an expert talking to passive students, which many advocates of MOOCs don't like. They prefer a "blended" delivery method where students have a chance to ask questions.  But if the latter is important, then we are back to something like the traditional liberal arts approach, where students and teachers meet to discuss a book they've all read.  And in that case, what use would watching an online lecture be?  Why not just read Sandel's book or better yet, just go to the greatest books on justice - Plato or Aristotle or Locke or Kant or Tocqueville - and then discuss the reading in class?

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