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Blended Learning is Tested

The use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as a blended model in traditional classrooms is under scrutiny by many professors.

In the spring, a pilot program was launched by Massachusetts Bay Community College (MassBay) integrating a pre-existing MOOC with a weekly, 90-minute in-person class that included homework assignments and exams. While this program proved to be successful among students enrolled, the debate about professors’ academic freedom in MOOC-assisted classes is still being debated.

When considering the use of MOOCs to complement classes, Martin D. Snyder, acting executive director of the American Association of University Professors, said that they work well when a faculty member has some autonomy for how it is used.

“It’s too simplistic to turn your back on this and say it’s universally, unequivocally bad,” he told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

An open letter sent last month by the Philosophy Department at San Jose State University expresses some of the concerns of faculty when higher education institutions form partnerships with external content providers.

“Our very diverse students gain far more when their own experience is central to the course and when they are learning from our own very diverse faculty, who bring their varied perspectives to the content of courses,” the letter states.

Whether the use of MOOCs in place of traditional class lectures is detrimental to faculty jobs will remain to be seen. There are, however, professors who see the immense value of these courses.

“The MIT certificate has a lot more value in the marketplace than three course credits at MassBay—absolutely,” Chandrakant Panse, a professor of microbiology at MassBay, told The Chronicle of Higher Education.