Why MOOC Professors Shouldn’t Be Called “Rock Stars”

Having been around for some time now, MOOCs have generated a considerable amount of hype, especially with its professors being perceived as “rock stars”. Kevin Werbach, an associate professor of legal studies and business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, recently wrote an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education detailing his opinion of the “rock star” title and its many implications to the education system, its professors, and the ideas of education as a whole. Having already taught two MOOCs, and although his experience with MOOCs has been overwhelmingly positive, he believes that those who have deemed professors teaching MOOCs as “rock stars” need to consider the implications of that title.

According to Werbach, being a “rock star” implies that the professors are performers and that the students are listeners. It, not only reinforces the “Sage on the Stage” idea even further, which MOOCs were trying to solve in the first place, but it also disregards the interactive portion of learning that has been proven to greatly enhance student engagement and the learning experience.

Another point Werbach brings up about the “rock star” title is its implications towards professors who are unable to teach a MOOC for whatever reason. If a professor does not teach a MOOC, they are perceived to be less effective than those who do teach MOOCs because those who are able to teach these courses are considered to be the best, or “rock stars”. As a result, you have professors, who may be highly revered and effective instructors, but who are seen as inadequate to other instructors who are able to teach a MOOC. Unfair in many ways, this creates an unfavorable perception towards those who do or do not teach MOOCs.

Werbach asserts the notion that MOOCs can open up universities and their faculty members in new and interesting ways by empowering both teachers and students to own their learning and education. But having MOOCs be used, or be perceived, to reestablish and strengthen old and ineffective practices (Sage on the Stage), that were meant to be solved by MOOCs initially, will only perpetuate the problem even further.

Click here to read more about Kevin Werbach’s opinion on this topic.