Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Sunday 01 August |
Saint of the Day: St. Alphonsus Liguori
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

MOOCs Bad for Catholic Colleges, Argues Theology Professor

Merrimack College

Matthew Archbold - published on 09/20/13

A Catholic theology professor is calling on Catholic colleges to take a principled stand against Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

A Catholic theology professor is calling on Catholic colleges to take a principled stand against Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in order to “reassert the belief that education is a moral enterprise that develops human dignity and promotes social justice.”

Whereas MOOCs have been popular among large and prestigious colleges, Georgetown University is the only Catholic college known to have contracted with leading tech companies to provide MOOCs.

Jonathan Malesic, an associate professor of theology at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that MOOCs not only fail to accomplish the goals of Catholic education but also undermine them. If large Catholic universities implement MOOCs, Malesic warns, it could result in pushing smaller Catholic colleges out of business, thereby weakening Catholic higher education as a whole.

He also warns against further “depersonalization” in Catholic education. “To educate anyone fully—addressing their moral and spiritual development as well as their intellect—teachers and students must be present to each other,” he writes.

Malesic does admit that MOOCS could offer access to college-level instruction for the poor or those who live in areas too remote to attend college. “But the altruistic promise of MOOCs has been empty so far,” he writes, noting that MOOCs have thus far been mostly used for continuing education by those who already possess degrees.

“If, in a few decades, the number of Catholic colleges in the United States amounts to only a handful of mega-universities, with most students taking classes online, in physical isolation from their professors and peers, then the project of Catholic higher education will have failed. Not only will it have abandoned personal and local education, but it will have elevated the market principles of competition and consolidation above the Catholic social-justice principles of solidarity (making decisions that benefit the common good) and subsidiarity (making decisions at the lowest and most local possible level).

“Once Catholic colleges distinguish themselves from the MOOC-addled crowd by making this appeal to their tradition's moral principles (and once they persuade Georgetown to give up its MOOCs), they need to put those principles into action. They need to make sure that they really do educate the whole person—with faculty who embody what it means to be an educated person. They must also treat their employees, especially their highly vulnerable contingent faculty, like the sources of value they really are.”

Malesic is not adverse to making provocative arguments. In his 2009 book, Secret Faith in the Public Square: An Argument for the Concealment of Christian Identity, Malesic urges Christians to live their faith without drawing attention to it. With particular attention to politics and other high-profile occupations, he argues that one’s Christianity should not be used as a label and should be a highly private matter.

Originally published by The Cardinal Newman Society's Catholic Education Daily on 19 September 2013.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
Ignacio María Doñoro
Francisco Veneto
The military chaplain who pretended to be a criminal to rescue a ...
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
Violeta Tejera
Carlo Acutis’ first stained glass window in jeans and sneak...
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.