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  • Bildung in a Digital World: The Case of MOOCs

    Danielle Shanley Tsjalling Swierstra Sally Wyatt

    Chapter from the book: Stocchetti, M. 2020. The Digital Age and Its Discontents: Critical Reflections in Education.

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    Massive open online courses (MOOCs), in theory, allow people to study wherever and whenever they want. They promise to broaden access and availability of education, allowing people to ‘up-skill’ themselves. As an important innovation, they provoke reflection on the meaning and purpose of the university. A number of humanities scholars have voiced scepticism as to whether MOOCs can deliver the sort of intellectual training and personal cultivation (Bildung) that is provided within the walls of the university, where staff and students interact face-to-face, in relatively intimate settings, to discuss issues they deem important rather than being driven by external definitions of relevance. In this chapter, after introducing MOOCs, we explore the most common arguments about why MOOCs would be incompatible with the values of the humanities. We then question the extent to which MOOCs really do threaten these values. We do this by eliciting advantages and disadvantages from people’s experiences with MOOCs so far. Far from confirming the sceptics’ perceived incompatibility between a technology-intensive environment and the Bildung ideal, experiences with MOOCs to date may actually serve to promote several of the values of the humanities. Drawing on theories of technological mediation, we propose that instead of shunning MOOCs, the humanities should be thinking about how to facilitate Bildung within MOOCs. In this way, they can have a lasting and desirable impact on the future of higher education.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Shanley, D et al. 2020. Bildung in a Digital World: The Case of MOOCs. In: Stocchetti, M (ed.), The Digital Age and Its Discontents. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/HUP-4-11

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on Aug. 11, 2020


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