In an article at the History News Network, Hyman and Baptist defend MOOCs. Here is a taste:
MOOCs offer a tremendously promising way to communicate about pressing ideas with a broad audience. In one semester the two of us can teach, at most, a few hundred students at Cornell. Indeed, all of our Cornell colleagues combined could teach a few thousand. But in a MOOC we can reach tens of thousands, all around the world, for free. Commuters can listen to the podcasts of our lectures, or even watch the lectures on their phones during a coffee break. Education can be flexible, and it can bring people together--sometimes in classrooms, but often or even most of the time somewhere else.
So rather than a triumph of individualistic, market values, the MOOC represents a democratic way to raise collective education. Rather than creating a uniform product consumed in isolation, MOOCs are more likely to restore critical conversations to the classroom--and the book club. Rather than disempowering faculty members and universities, MOOC technology can give them greater reach while eliminating inefficiencies that profit nobody except for a few corporate behemoths. MOOCs can support a flipped classroom inside the university and democratic education outside the university. Thus academics, students, and people in general shouldn't hopelessly pine for a past before anyone thought of a MOOC. Instead, we should figure out how to use MOOCs to help make a future that fits our democratic values.