This is where we’ll talk about Clay Shirky’s “Napster, Udacity, and the academy” blog post and Aaron Bady’s response in Inside Higher Ed, “Questioning Clay Shirky.”
One useful place to begin this is to answer the question “who is Clay Shirky?” Shirky himself says to check out his Wikipedia page for more details, so there you have it. I think it’s fair to say that he is one of the leading speakers/writers on “new media” issues. He’s quite a charismatic speaker and a great and very accessible writer. I’ve taught his book Here Comes Everybody in my Writing for the World Wide Web class a couple of times, and I am thinking about using Cognitive Surplus next time or in the fall.
The piece we’re reading from Shirky is actually a blog post he had a while back. I’m going to assume everyone has heard of Napster; Udacity is another company similar to Coursera: they’re trying to develop MOOCs that will offer college credit or at least these large and free learning experiences.
Bady, who is a graduate student in English at UC Berkeley (I might try to email him to see if he’s interested in reading our discussion here), is taking on Shirky in a way I sympathize with greatly. I generally agree with Shirky, but like Bady, I don’t think he quite has it right this time around. I think Bady’s point of MOOCs being “better than nothing” is an interesting observation in that it is true in both good and bad ways: that is, while MOOCs might not be a replacement (or even a part of?) a regular college degree, they are better than nothing, which might be just good enough.