Myth of the MOOC

2:00pm - 3:00pm EDT April 5, 2013

An opportunity to critically examine the MOOC phenomenon, consider the broader context of opportunities and anxieties in which the MOOC myth has been created, and think strategically about how to use emergent online learning platforms in the service of institutional mission. (Times EDT)

This seminar expands upon the Myth of the MOOC seminar offered April 1, 2013. Participants interested in continuing the conversation as well as those who want to join in are welcome.

MOOCs have generated wild speculation about what they mean for the future of higher education in the United States, with commentators in The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and endless blogs, press releases, and other tributary media arguing polarized views of what MOOCs portend. Temptation exists to adjust strategy based on these spectacular arguments, but liberal arts colleges are better served by considering the broader context of opportunities and anxieties in which the MOOC myth is created. If we see predictions about MOOCs less in terms of true or false and more as competing myths that have a specific relationship to our institutional missions, we will have a firmer footing when considering our strategy for using emergent online learning platforms in the service of that mission. As Vincent Mosco says:

Myths are not just a distortion of reality that requires debunking; they are a form of reality. They give meaning to life, particularly by helping us to understand the     seemingly incomprehensible, to cope with problems that are overwhelmingly intractable, and to create in vision or dream what cannot be realized in practice (Digital Sublime, p. 13).

In addition to providing details of the MOOC phenomenon so far, this seminar will lay the groundwork for thinking about MOOCs as myth and demonstrate humanities and social science research methods that can be applied to other cultural objects with similar strategic implications.

Suggested Reading

Sean Andrews’ focus at NITLE is on the future of libraries and scholarly communications and the development of NITLE consulting program’s futures and scenario modeling practice area. An ACLS Public Fellow, Dr. Andrews is currently on leave from Columbia College Chicago, where he has served as assistant professor of cultural studies in the College’s internationally recognized Cultural Studies program. He has researched and written on the concept of immaterial labor and supporting cultural production in the digital age and a variety of other topics. Dr. Andrews holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies and M.A. in Literature with an emphasis in Cultural Studies, both from George Mason University, and a B.A. in Communications from Southwestern University.

Event Hashtag

Participants are encouraged to share their thoughts on Twitter via this event’s hashtag: #mooc.


Campus leaders, strategic thinkers, innovators, and others from the NITLE Network who are interested in MOOCs and the future of liberal education are invited to attend this seminar. Attendance by institutional teams is encouraged; individuals are also welcome to participate.

Please register online by Friday, June 1. Participation in NITLE Shared Academics events is open to all active member institutions of the NITLE Network as a benefit of membership and as space allows. No additional registration fee applies.


For more information about this event, please contact Rebecca Davis at

NITLE Shared AcademicsTM models a new approach to liberal education – made possible through strategic collaboration, driven by shared knowledge, and supported by emerging technologies. Campuses learn how inter-institutional academic exchange works by actively participating in it, building the knowledge and experience to re-architect liberal education.