This post is mostly about my thoughts regarding MOOCs and open access publishing, followed by very brief ruminations on the peer review process used by scholarly journals.
Regarding MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSES
On Much ado about MOOCs (March 2013) via the Ellucian Higher Education blog,
Since you asked: MOOCs have caught the public’s eye. They are a facile response to greater underlying problems. Online classes and degree programs aren’t new. MIT has offered free online courses for five years, a few live, most recorded. I don’t see any substantive difference between Coursera et. al. and videotaped MIT electrical engineering classes, other than that the former are trendy. Interactive online learning web apps have been available for years from the University of Texas.
Open access to faculty research, published as articles in scholarly journals, is very important. It is of interest to a fraction of the population compared to MOOCs. So MOOCs get disproportionate attention, for now.
About open access
I love having access to the National Library of Medicine! I wish I could read Nature and Communications of the ACM articles too. arXiv and SSRN are pre-print services, which I appreciate, while remembering that content hasn’t been peer-reviewed. Some is great, some never makes it out of arXiv.
The peer review process is essential to maintain quality. Everyone wants to publish. Everyone wants to be an author too, and that’s why there are so many awful self-published novels for sale on Amazon.com. Open access for scholarly journal articles must not be implemented such that quality is diluted.