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MOOC-fest at the Science-Mart: What the Third Wave of Online Education Means for Academia and Cultural Study

MOOC-fest at the Science-Mart: What the Third Wave of Online Education Means for Academia and Cultural Study

USC Humanities Associates Series: American Cultures

  • Date:
    Thursday, March 28, 2013
  • Time:
    4:30 PM to 5:30 PM
  • Campus:
    University Park Campus
  • Venue:
    Taper Hall of Humanities (THH)
  • Room:
    420 (The Ide Room)
  • Phone:


The national success of MOOCs cannot be explained by real educational or technical accomplishments, which are modest.  This paper examines MOOCs as a cultural phenomenon.  It first identifies the people and rhetorics that brought them to national attention in 2012, and then discusses why academic, business, and political leaders have come to claim that the long term future of universities depends on the rapid adoption of MOOCs, starting with disadvantaged students.  The lecture shows how MOOC-talk reflects efforts of interested parties to resuscitate a dying innovation model that has benefited some commercial interests while damaging public science, and that is now, by reviving venerable culture-wars themes, planning to assimilate independent liberal arts education. Empirical findings will be presented in conjunction with speculative conclusions about better options for the future university.

Christopher Newfield is a researcher, writer, editor, and professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He brings an interdisciplinary background to the analysis of a range of topics in American Studies, innovation theory, and “critical university studies,” a field which he helped to found. Chris’ books include Mapping Multiculturalism (edited with Avery Gordon), The Emerson Effect: Individualism and Submission in America (Chicago, 1996), Ivy and Industry: Business and the Making of the American University, 1880-1980 (Duke, 2003), and Unmaking the Public University: The Forty Year Assault on the Middle Class (Harvard, 2008). His writing covers American political psychology, race relations, the future of solar energy, collaboration in nanoscience, and the power of humanities-based investigation. He teaches courses on Detective Fiction, Global California, Creativity: Theory and Practice, Innovation Studies, Critical Theory, among others. He blogs on higher education funding and policy at Remaking the University  (http://utotherescue.blogspot.com), the Huffington Post, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and is completing a book called Lower Education: What to do About Our Downsized Future.