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Communications of the ACM

Technology strategy and management

MOOCs Revisited, With Some Policy Suggestions

MOOCs Revisited, illustration

It is approximately one year since I wrote a column on massive open online courses (see "Are the Costs of 'Free' Too High in Online Education?" Communications, April 2013). Since then, we have seen many more analyses on the subject.a I also received several responses to my column, from positive to negative,3,5 and served this past year on an MIT task force examining the future of education (see

Probably the most disturbing response to my column came from a professor in the U.S. who had decided to teach his course on one of the major MOOC platforms. He thought MOOCs would be the future and did not want to be left behind. Yet, he confessed regret that he might be contributing to the "tragedy of the commons": He feared his individual decision would not be good in the long run for his university or for the education profession. The image that came immediately to my mind was of the natives on Easter Island who cut down the last tree. They got fuel for another day but eventually their civilization collapsed. Did they know what they were doing?


Amin Mansuri

Your article says on the one hand that Udacity has given up with college training and instead has moved to vocational degrees. But then you say it teamed up with Georgia Tech and AT&T for a "three semester" [sic] master's degree in Computer Science.

Is a Master's degree considered "vocational training" these days? As far as I know it is considered Grad school by most people.

Also you mention it is a three semester program. In fact it is a 36 credit program like many other University's offer. There is a 6 year limit on its completion but generally it would take students at least 2 years (4 semesters) to complete it. But in practice it will probably take longer.

Another point is defining what a MOOC is. I'm not sure Georgia Tech's program currently qualifies as a MOOC because it only has 375 highly selected students in it at this time.

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