Decisions …. Decisions…
I’ve decided to take the plunge and find out first-hand what the buzz is all about around EdX and MOOCs. Is it the future of higher ed? Is this how I will be teaching my own courses in the near future? Or is it just this year’s fad full of hype and false promises? Enquiring minds want to know… first-hand.
I’ve narrowed the field down to two spring semester courses that look pretty interesting; Harvard’s ER22x: Justice taught by the acclaimed Michael Sandel and MIT’s 14.73x: The Challenges of Global Poverty taught by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. At the moment I’m undecided which one I’ll try.
If i were truly in the spirit of things I’d let my students vote on which would add the most value to the courses i teach. Hmmm… perhaps I’ll do that in a later post.
Here are brief descriptions of the two courses:
ER22x: Justice – HarvardX
Justice is a critical analysis of classical and contemporary theories of justice, including discussion of present-day applications. Topics include affirmative action, income distribution, same-sex marriage, the role of markets, debates about rights (human rights and property rights), arguments for and against equality, dilemmas of loyalty in public and private life. The course invites students to subject their own views on these controversies to critical examination.
The principle readings for the course are texts by Aristotle, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls. Other assigned readings include writings by contemporary philosophers, court cases, and articles about political controversies that raise philosophical questions.
Learn more about ER22x here
This is a course for those who are interested in the challenge posed by massive and persistent world poverty, and are hopeful that economists might have something useful to say about this challenge. The questions we will take up include: Is extreme poverty a thing of the past? What is economic life like when living under a dollar per day? Are the poor always hungry? How do we make schools work for poor citizens? How do we deal with the disease burden? Is microfinance invaluable or overrated? Without property rights, is life destined to be “nasty, brutish and short”? Should we leave economic development to the market? Should we leave economic development to non-governmental organizations (NGOs)? Does foreign aid help or hinder? Where is the best place to intervene? And many others. At the end of this course, you should have a good sense of the key questions asked by scholars interested in poverty today, and hopefully a few answers as well.
Learn more about 14.73x here
EdX is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that features learning designed specifically for interactive study via the web. Based on a long history of collaboration and their shared educational missions, the founders are creating a new online-learning experience with online courses that reflect their disciplinary breadth. Along with offering online courses, the institutions will use edX to research how students learn and how technology can transform learning–both on-campus and worldwide. Anant Agarwal, former Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, serves as the first president of edX. EdX’s goals combine the desire to reach out to students of all ages, means, and nations, and to deliver these teachings from a faculty who reflect the diversity of its audience.
Learn more about ER22x here