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The Economic Crisis and the Rise of MOOCs

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The Evolution and Evaluation of Massive Open Online Courses

Part of the book series: The Cultural and Social Foundations of Education ((CSFE))

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When the major MOOC platforms were established in 2012, the economy and higher education were in crisis as a result of the 2008 financial collapse. Also, due to the long-term shift from industrial to information society, the nature of work, the skill base and organization of the labor force, and the production and utilization of knowledge were all changing. Middle-class jobs were disappearing and middle-class wages were no better than stagnant, while college tuition and student debt skyrocketed. Students found themselves paying more in tuition for fewer benefits in expected pay-offs. Thus, starting in 2011 American college enrollments began to decline, and some colleges were driven to insolvency. MOOCs gained rapid visibility by promising to resolve the high education crisis by making free, ‘world class’ higher education available for all.

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    Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoads (Slaughter and Rhoades 2009) have called this the shift from the professional-state power/knowledge regime of the 20th century to the ‘academic capitalism’ regime of our time.

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    The text of the report can be found at

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    C. Wright Mills, in White Collar (1951) and The Power Elite (1956) provided the classic analysis of this class structure. MIlls’ analysis was influenced by the Marxian tradition, Max Weber and American pragmatism, particularly the philosophy of John Dewey.

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    ‘The term “metropole” has traditionally been defined in terms of their distinct separation, with a pronouncedly one-way, near-dictatorial channel of command, communication, and control proceeding outward from the center; the metropole informed the periphery, but the periphery did not directly inform the metropole’ (from

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    This pressure and its often fatal effects have been documented extensively. See e.g., Winerip (2007); Perez-Pena (2014); Scelfo (2015).

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    From a Foucauldian point of view, this process opens up channels for the flow of power/knowledge from the metropole to the periphery. On the concept of power/knowledge, see Foucault (1980).

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Waks, L. (2016). The Economic Crisis and the Rise of MOOCs. In: The Evolution and Evaluation of Massive Open Online Courses. The Cultural and Social Foundations of Education. Palgrave Pivot, New York.

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Pivot, New York

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-137-48594-6

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-349-85204-8

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