• The New Economy of Letters

    by Jill Lepore

    All the noise has silenced the modest, the untenured, and the politically moderate.

  • Gilder Lehrman and Dickinson College Partner for Lincoln Online Course

    by David Austin Walsh

    Abraham Lincoln in 1865.With all the digital ink spilt over massive open online courses recently, it's easy to forget that while all MOOCs are online courses, not all online courses are MOOCs.Take “Understanding Lincoln,” a new online course co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute Dickinson College. The course, led by Lincoln scholar Matthew Pinsker, will offer a hybrid approach – a smaller seminar section with a hundred-student enrollment cap, direct access to Professor Pinkser and Gilder Lehrman staff, and the opportunity to interact with other students in digital forums.For-credit students will pay $450 and receive three graduate credits at Dickinson, which can be used as transfer credit at other institutions.For those interested in enrichment, a free section featuring lectures and readings will also be available, along with a certificate of completion for those who finish the course.

  • "Being a Professor Will No Longer Be a Viable Career."

    by David Austin Walsh

    With MOOCs the academic freedom of professors is under siege because professors are losing control of their intellectual property, says Cary Nelson, former president of the American Association of University Professors.

  • Just How Many History MOOCs are Being Offered Now, Anyway?

    by David Austin Walsh

    Though many historians are nervous about the potential massive disruption in higher education due to the proliferation of massive online education courses, only a handful of MOOCs are actually dedicated to history. Of four of the largest MOOC providers survey -- Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Semester Online -- only eight history courses actually taught by history faculty are being offered. Popular MOOC provider Coursera only has two dedicated history courses taught by historians open for registration as of June 9, though at least one additional class is in development.EdX, the non-profit MOOC established by Harvard and MIT, also offers eight history classes, but most have a classics or literature focus and are taught by professors from classics, English, or area studies departments. Udacity does not offer history or traditional humanities courses at all, focusing instead on STEM and social science courses.

  • UPenn's Stephanie McCurry to Lead First MOOC on History of Slavery

    by David Austin Walsh

    Credit: Wiki Commons/HNN staff.Stephanie McCurry, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and a distinguished scholar of the Civil War era, will be leading a new massive online open course this fall about the history of slavery in the United States. It will be based on her popular UPenn course, “The Rise and Fall of the Slave South,” a survey-level class.The course, which has yet to be officially titled, is the product of the partnership between UPenn and the popular MOOC provider Coursera.Professor McCurry says that she became interested in teaching a MOOC after spending three years as undergraduate chair at the university, during which she saw a decline in the number of enrollments in history classes.MOOCs offered an opportunity to shake up the field.“I became interested in pedagogical and curricular questions, and I'd already begun a series of initiatives within my department to move away from standard survey/AP-style courses.”

  • Coursera Contract with UT System Released; History Chair Says No MOOCs at Knoxville This Fall

    by David Austin Walsh

    The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee system, will not be providing massive online open courses for the Silicon Valley tech startup Coursera in the coming semester, says UT Knoxville history department chair Thomas Burman.“This decision does not affect us at all,” he wrote in an email.Only two classes will be offered on the Coursera platform across the entire UT system in fall 2013: an introductory music course at the Martin campus, and freshman English composition at UT Chattanooga.The Tennessean reports that the Coursera partnership is an internal pilot program designed to familiarize faculty with online courses and new technology. The courses offered by the program will only be available on a for-credit basis to already-enrolled UT students.No history courses are planned to be offered under the program.“When the topic [of online education] came up for a wide-ranging discussion among campus leadership [in 2011],” Bruman wrote, “the widely-shared view, including among the central academic administrators, was that on-line teaching has a place in a limited number of areas here, especially in the professional schools, but is not what this campus is about.”

  • HNN Hot Topics: MOOCs

    Image via Shutterstock/Flickr.NewsCoursera contract with UT system released; history chair says no MOOCs at Knoxville this fall (6-3-13)Historians at MOOC partner schools say faculty not consulted (5-30-13)San Jose State professors fire back at online class offer (5-25-13)Profs get ready for tens of thousands of students in online courses (1-14-13)Commentary

  • Why MOOCs are Like the Music Industry

    by Alex Sayf Cummings

    Every year, I have students in my media history class break into two teams. One side has to argue that the media in America have become more homogenous and monopolized by a small handful of corporate interests -- the Viacoms and Murdochs of the world, and possibly the Koch brothers (if they can get their hands on the Los Angeles Times).The other team argues the counterpoint -- that despite the consolidation of radio stations, newspapers, and other traditional media by a few big corporations, the media have actually grown more open and diverse over the last thirty years, with the proliferation of cable, video, blogs, tweets and texts and so forth. Consumers have more options, not less.

  • Historians at MOOC Partner Schools Say Faculty Not Consulted

    by David Austin Walsh

    Image via Shutterstock.“When colleges and universities finally decide to make full use of the Internet,” Randall Stross, a professor of business at San Jose State, wrote back in 2011, “most professors will lose their jobs.”With the proliferation of massive online open courses (MOOCs), Stross wrote in an email to HNN, that time may have come.On May 30, Coursera, the Silicon Valley MOOC provider founded by Stanford University computer scientists in 2012, announced that it had just signed agreements with ten state universities systems to produce and share online courses for credit.The signatories are the University of Colorado, the University System of Georgia, the University of Houston system, the University of Kentucky, the University of Nebraska system, the University of New Mexico system, the State University of New York system, the University of Tennessee system and the Tennessee Board of Regents system, and West Virginia University.

  • Claire B. Potter: Could Flipping the Curriculum Lead to More Jobs and Better Educated Students?

    Claire B. Potter is Professor of History at The New School for Public Engagement. She blogs at Tenured Radical.Another school year ends, and the MOOC people are happily planting stories in the media about a teaching model that, if it succeeds, is likely to kill off full time work in the liberal arts forever. How do we fight this, and the concurrent view that liberal arts BAs are simply a thing of the past?Here’s my idea: let’s flip the curriculum. Kill the survey courses and start teaching history as applied knowledge, and as a set of skills that can tangibly enhance the careers that most of our students will actually have.As a profession, we have, to date, mounted few successful counter-arguments to those who wish to shift resources away from teaching, and jobs, in the humanities and social sciences. One of the reasons that MOOCs may be doing so well is that they represent practically the only big idea that the academy has had in the past several decades. Many of our colleagues in the humanities have played defense for so long it’s hard to know what a good, solid curricular reform would look like....

  • San Jose State professors fire back at online class offer

    In a nationwide push to experiment with online university courses, San Jose State stands at the forefront, making deals with private sector startups to package lectures from Ivy League professors and opening some for-credit classes to the masses.Now, a counterrevolution is underway.In recent weeks, humanities professors -- feeling the withering of their departments and fearing virtual demotions -- have begun to resist calls to abandon traditional teaching methods. In an open letter to a Harvard University professor who offered San Jose State his online social justice course, Cal State philosophy professors argue that momentum is building to dismantle college as we know it, a concern echoing through academic halls nationwide....The letter resonated with Bruce Reynolds, a San Jose State history professor nearing retirement. He said he and his colleagues are frustrated that traditional teaching methods have been dismissed as passe."The philosophy department letter was what woke people up, I think," he said....

  • Jonathan Rees on why Harvard hates you, the historian

    Jonathan Rees is professor of history at Colorado State University -- Pueblo.If you don’t know who “John Henry” was, The Boss will be delighted to sing you one version of the story. Or better yet, read the book by Scott Reynolds Nelson and learn a little bit about all of them. The key point here for understanding that tweet is that the steam hammer killed John Henry, leaving him no time to do other things at all. While MOOC enthusiasts like to claim that their babies will allow professors to get back to the way teaching is supposed to be, anybody who’s paying the least bit of attention to academic politics in this day and age knows that the bean counters will never let that happen. Economically, non-superprofessors will all be as dead as John Henry because killing our jobs is the primary reason that MOOCs exist in the first place....

  • Susan Matt and Luke Fernandez: Before MOOCs, ‘Colleges of the Air’

    Susan Matt is chair of the history department at Weber State University, and Luke Fernandez is Weber State’s manager for program and technology development. In 1937, as she lay ill in bed, Annie Oakes Huntington, a writer living in Maine, thought of ways to spend her time. She confided in a letter: “The radio has been a source of unfailing diversion this winter. I expect to enter all the courses at Harvard to be broadcasted.” Huntington was joining in an educational experiment sweeping the country in the 1920s and 30s: massive open on-air courses.As educators contemplate the MOOCs of our day—massive open online courses—they would do well to consider how earlier generations dealt with technology-enhanced education.

  • Michael S. Roth: My Global Philosophy Course

    Mr. Roth is president of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. and the author of "Memory, Trauma, and History: Essays on Living with the Past" (Columbia University, 2011).When I mention online learning to my colleagues at Wesleyan University, most respond initially with skepticism. But based on my experience, I know that real learning can take place on the Web.I am currently teaching a massive online open course, or MOOC, on Coursera. Most MOOCs have great attrition, and mine is no exception: There were almost 30,000 students registered at the start, yet 4,000 remain active as we near the end of the semester. Unlike most MOOCs, which focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, mine is a classic humanities course. "The Modern and the Postmodern" starts off in the 18th century with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant, and we work our way toward the present.

  • Jon Wiener: For-Profit Fiasco: California Public Colleges Turn to Web Courses

    Jon Wiener is an historian who teaches at UC Irvine, and a contributing editor to The Nation.Here’s how California treats its public colleges and universities: first, cut public funds, and thus classes; then wait for over-enrollment, as students are unable to get the classes they need to graduate; finally, shift classes online, for profit. That’s the way Laila Lalami, UC Riverside creative writing professor, explained it in a recent tweet, and that’s pretty much the whole story behind the bill introduced this week by the Democratic leader of the state senate, Darrell Steinberg. His bill requires California’s community colleges, along with the 23 Cal State schools and the ten-campus university, to allow students to substitute online courses for required courses taught by faculty members. The key to the proposal: the online courses will be offered by profit-making companies.

  • Profs get ready for tens of thousands of students in online courses

    University of Virginia history professor Philip Zelikow stands by the statue of the “Bird Man,” as many on Grounds call it, and tells who the statue represents and how the sculptor interpreted the man’s story. Zelikow describes the statue as a symbol of how the world entered the modern age after World War I.His lesson is part of the video that introduces his massive open online course, or MOOC. “The Modern World: Global History Since 1760” debuts today on Coursera, an online education company started last year by two Stanford University professors.Zelikow, the White Burkett Miller Professor of History, is one of five U.Va. professors teaching the first group of MOOCs this semester, who have been working hard to make interesting videos and adapt educational materials to virtual classrooms full of unprecedented numbers of students.U.Va. is among 33 universities whose faculty are offering courses through Coursera. More than 2 million people around the world have signed up for the classes....