MOOCs – massive open online courses – have been greeted with emotional extremes that range from euphoric enthusiasm to catastrophic pessimism. In contrast, this collection situates the phenomena of free video courses with interactive lessons that are offered to tens of thousands in the longer history of higher education and the more complex theoretical framework of pedagogical experimentation. Rather than treat MOOCs as a single entity, this collection poses critical questions about scale (massiveness), access (openness), technology (online platforms), and tradition (course structures) to foster a more productive conversation about educational reform. In framing the debate, it is important to point out that open education has a long history in the American experience that has shaped our political rhetoric and public culture for a long time, and that technological innovation and pedagogical critique are not the exclusive domains of MOOC promoters.
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