RESOURCE: As the online education movement grows, Hollywood-style concerns — wardrobe, social media buzz — are coming to academia – Lifestyle – The Boston Globe
Before Adam Van Arsdale began taping his anthropology course to show online, he was used to standing in front of perhaps 20 Wellesley College undergrads. Now when he talks about Australopithecus, he has to worry whether the 19,000 people who registered for his Massive Open Online Course — enough to fill TD Garden — think he should have shaved that morning, and what they will tweet.
“It opens you up to a lot of complaining,” the assistant professor said, recalling the support one student enjoyed after he griped on Facebook about the way Van Arsdale phrased a question on natural selection. “Fifty people ‘liked’ that negative posting.”
Massive open online courses — known as MOOCs — have been around for years, but recently they have taken off. Mostly free, on topics as wide-ranging as “The History of the World from the 1300s’’ to “Warhol’’ to “Diabetes,’’ the online courses are giving the common person access to elite professors. Along the way, they are bringing Hollywood-style concerns — wardrobe, continuity issues, social media buzz— to the halls of academia. With tens of thousands of students or more sometimes registering to watch a single professor, the word “star” is being used to describe people more likely to spend time with The New York Review of Books than a personal masseuse.
“Now I have to worry about what shirt I’m wearing,” said David Cox, an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard.