Phi Beta Cons

Unexpected Support for MOOCs

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal ran an article by Michael S. Roth entitled “My Global Philosophy Course.” Roth is the president of Wesleyan University and found that while many students who signed up for his course (on Coursera) dropped before the end (only 4,000 of 30,000 stuck it out), there was remarkable intellectual energy among those who persisted. He writes, “I am sure that many of those enrolled in the online version have also discovered texts and people that are having profound effects on their lives.”

I was struck by the remarkable diversity of the students who wanted to learn philosophy with Roth. “Study groups in Bulgaria and India, in Russia and Boston made me giddy at the reach of this kind of class.” Ah — the invisible hand at work. Without any official trying to guarantee “diversity” (on account of ancestry), Roth got a remarkably diverse group of students who had one crucial thing in common, namely the desire to learn what he wanted to teach. Officials at Wesleyan and elsewhere should keep that in mind. Bring together a group of students who want to learn and “diversity” will take care of itself.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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