There has to be a line, right? We should champion and study our innovations while at the same time drawing clear lines around the space where they’re useful and being honest about the space where they’re not. If Sannier thought there was anything MOOCs couldn’t do, any discipline or student for whom the MOOC modality would be any less than perfect, he kept it to himself. Kindergarten? Civics class? Science lab? We need to start drawing lines around the problem space for which “MOOC” (and “online education,” more generally) is the solution.
I’d like to point out also that MOOCs make the most sense if you accept the pedagogy of several hundred students being spoken at in a lecture hall. If that is the highest we aspire to pedagogically, then, yes, let’s take the people who speak at students best and have them speak at many more students, all at once. But does being spoken at in a large room ever rate as the best part of anybody’s higher education? There are many people, including Tom Sallee at UC Davis and Eric Mazur at Harvard who have innovated around the large lecture hall, creating environments for experimentation and peer instruction.
I can accept a decrease in the quality of the education we offer if we compensate in other areas like affordability and scale. But to hear Sannier (and other proponents of MOOCs) talk, there is no downside here, which sounds a lot more like a sales pitch than an appeal to reason.