Friday, January 31, 2014
Sanctioning The MOOCs
The US Government's decision to stop Coursera (and presumably other MOOCs) from delivering the courses in Syria, Iran, Cuba and Sudan is astonishing, if not outright misdirected. Indeed, I come to know of this as I am doing a course 'Constitutional Struggles in The Islamic World' from University of Copenhagen, and the notification tells me that the students taking the course from the above-mentioned countries will be stopped from taking the course. The act of sanction, therefore, appears completely counter-productive in the context.
The mail from Prof. Dr. Ebrahim Afsah that bore the notification states:
"Let me reiterate that I am appalled at this decision. Please note that no-one at Coursera likely had a choice in this matter! At any rate, rest assured that these are not the values of the University of Copenhagen, of its Faculty of Law, and most assuredly not mine!"
The point made in the notification, appended to Professor Afsah's mail, is that the course experience has now been definitively classified as a 'service', and therefore been included in the sanctions regime. I am sure this is not just about Coursera, a For-Profit enterprise, and will extend to all MOOCs, including EdX and others. It would be interesting to see whether US Government also considers 'services' such as MIT OpenCourseware to come under the sanctions, because this could be quite effectively used by academics in sanctioned countries to offer education and an open window to the outside world, what the US Government is intending to block.
This raises many questions, like
(a) Is this a suppression of academic freedom barring academics from delivering courses to those who are wanting to learn?
(b) Does this highlight the need of creating non-US based MOOCs, because any US business can be used as a tool for US Government policy?
(c) Does a policy like this defeat the stated purpose of punishing errant governments, and go to the extent of blocking people to people contact?
(d) Should this apply to an Iranian (or from any of these countries) citizen wanting to study abroad?
Given that a tiny fraction of total MOOC population is from these countries, this may not appear to be an important debate. However, in my mind, this is quite fundamental, because this act slays the 'Open' bit in the MOOC: It is no longer open, but subject to sanctions. Such philosophical points may not matter to most, and not certainly to money men, but should bother the academic community involved in the MOOCs.
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the...
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are ...
I remember this awkward dinner conversation. I was with my colleague in Northern Ireland, and a friend of his joined our table. After we w...
I am now in India, after a gap of several months. A lot has changed in the few months since I was last here. Most visibly, the money has c...
As Brexit starts to bite, the politics of it has come alive again. There are some clear signs that the British economy has started co...
The idea came to me from various conversations in China and India: That teacher training in Higher Education is an urgent need and a signi...
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today –...
Evolution of Meritocracy: American Eugenics, Intelligence Testing and The Making Of Modern MeritocracyIntroduction In the second decade of the new millennium - now - new questions about human abilities and human worth have arisen. A vas...
The world of politics is changing profoundly. It is not just about the rise of the strongmen rulers - President Xi of China, Prime Ministe...
As the crisis in jobs becomes apparent, many think that the way to maintain the Middle Class society is to be found in entrepreneurship. I...
How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.