Today on NPR a story about free online courses from four major universities, put together by Coursera.

Coursera’s Founders (AI experts) and Funders (venture capitalists)

Coursera says, We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.

Really? Why? How?

Thinking about the Center for Media Literacy’s Five Core Concepts (see my previous post):
1. All media messages are constructed.
2. Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
3. Different people experience the same media message differently.
4. Media have embedded values and points of view.
5. Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

The NPR story is a media message; it provides publicity for Coursera, and it was a totally non-critical happy-happy piece about how the courses provide a beneficent free service to the economically disadvantaged all over the world. Maybe they do, but is there no cost associated with this service?

“Free” high-quality education sounds wonderful (I may take free class myself), but there is no credit for these classes. Also, what will happen with the data generated by these classes (for example, statistics on users and how well they learn)? Are there economic interests that will benefit from moving most education online and are they related to Coursera? Why, specifically, are the two venture capitalists investing $15 million? Why was NPR’s report such fluff? Are the philosophical/economic/political assumptions of the professors and their institutions explicitly expressed?

Reminding us that there is no such thing as neutral technology, Selber wants us to apply Pfaffenberger’s theory to communications technology and its business/educational matrix. Here is Pfaffenberger’s Technological Dramas that provides historical context for Selber’s charts and explanations.

Agenda of a recent Innovation in Education conference at ASU. Surely, Selber/Pfaffenberger’s regularization concepts of segregation, centralization and standardization come into play when innovation=corporate control. This agenda is astonishing!