The Future History of MOOCs: Archivists, Historians, and the Digital Classroom

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 11:50 AM
Thurgood Marshall Ballroom East (Marriott Wardman Park)
Evan Jay Friss, James Madison University
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) threaten to change the landscape of higher education, as Stanford, MIT, Harvard, and scores of other universities have begun to experiment with these new platforms to educate students, anywhere in the world, free of charge.  Some scholars have delighted in their potential, while others fret about the unraveling of the traditional university model.  Nevertheless, the focus of the discussion has been on what they offer in the way of instruction and how close they can come to replicating the traditional classroom experience.  So while much thought has been given to how students might learn history in a MOOC, few have considered how MOOCs might inform history.

Unlike a traditional class, a MOOC leaves a large, and potentially rich, archival footprint.  Video lectures, course discussion boards, syllabi, writing assignments, and all of the other components of the class live in a unified space online.  With proper planning, digital preservation of these public materials is feasible, and historians of future generations can peer inside the class, watch the professor lecture, trace arguments among classmates, and evaluate written work in ways that we could never have imagined.  So the question becomes: What might future historians learn from these MOOCs?

This presentation will investigate some of the challenges associated with preserving MOOCs (e.g., making a case for their importance, technological concerns) as well as the ways in which future historians might use MOOCs to gain insight into our contemporary culture, society, and educational institutions.