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 Response Page - Clinefelter  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
David Clinefelter Interview of


Online courses, whether Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or classes at colleges and universities taught at least partly online, are poised to change the face of higher education, according to David Clinefelter. A number of colleges are offering free, non-credit online courses to anyone around the world (MOOCs), expanding the scope of learning offered by some of their best professors. It's a growing trend, even though it's not always clear how the colleges are benefitting by offering the MOOCs. Some colleges partner with private nonprofit and for-profit companies to offer the courses. In addition, Clinefelter believes colleges and large university systems could improve the content and quality of certain standard courses and get more productivity from faculty by offering those courses at least partly online. Faculty pay could be differentiated between those who design courses and materials and offer online lectures and those who supplement the online material by working directly with students.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Clinefelter. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. MOOCs are a major innovation. (8.0 average response) Online courses offered free of charge by prestigious universities and now enrolling many thousands of students are a major innovation in postsecondary education.

2. Opening access is significant. (8.2average response) Despite questions about competencies, credits, credentialing and other details, there is great educational significance in giving millions of individuals access to the best teaching minds available.

3. Colleges must hasten to participate. (8.1average response) Traditional postsecondary institutions will need to move promptly to find appropriate roles within the rapidly evolving online environment.

4. Standardization offers advantages. (7.1average response) The online movement offers advantages in cost, quality and productivity because design of certain courses can be standardized across many postsecondary institutions.

5. MOOCs allow professors to excel. (7.2 average response) The movement helps educators devote their time to what they do most effectively, whether designing courses, lecturing, or assisting students.

6. MOOCs lower costs, easing budgets. (6.6 average response) The movement will help students obtain their education with more affordable tuition and help elected officials allocate limited tax dollars.

7. MOOCs preclude personal contact. (6.4 average response) While notably providing new postsecondary opportunities globally, the online movement can't begin to offer the personal contact so characteristic of traditional institutions.


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. MOOCs are a major innovation.







2. Opening access is significant.







3. Colleges must hasten to participate.







4. Standardization offers advantages.







5. MOOCs allow professors to excel.







6. MOOCs lower costs, easing budgets.







7. MOOCs preclude personal contact.







Individual Responses:

Ralph Brauer  (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (0)  (2.5)  (0)  (10)

2. Opening access is significant. "Access to the best teaching minds…" A talking head on a computer screen?

4. Standardization offers advantages. Standardized courses produce standardized students

5. MOOCs allow professors to excel. How?

6. MOOCs lower costs, easing budgets. Does cheap education equal good education?

Dave Broden  (10)  (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)  (0)

1. MOOCs are a major innovation. This is Disruptive Technology in action-- realizing a need and an opportunity, matched to technology change, occurred and [the innovation] will grow as understanding is communicated.

2. Opening access is significant. There is direct educational benefit and complementary benefits of networking, social skills interaction, and sharing of both the educational and interpersonal and international links.

3. Colleges must hasten to participate. Traditional postsecondary institutions must move but the question is will they? The static approach to understanding this type of change will likely override the benefits in many institutions as they resist the change to their so-called image and type of education. This will lead to a crisis in many schools to the point that some will face major changes in scope and size and some will go away.

4. Standardization offers advantages. I strongly agree with the core of the statement; however the use of the word “standardize” is very disturbing. As we talk one day about small size and tailoring to the student the next topic is standardize the system, which destroys the size benefits. We need to do this change while allowing and including flexibility in some way. This to me is a key challenge.

5. MOOCs allow professors to excel. Agree but the list of what they do best must include the complex word—research. There must be a process in this type of on-line education for educators to regularly connect with students directly or indirectly.

6. MOOCs lower costs, easing budgets. This should be the result and will be realized to some degree. Just how and how much [can] be another opportunity for disruptive technology to play into the game. If there is not a push for resulting lower cost, the funds will simply go elsewhere in the institution budget. Need to start by determining what is saved by online—and is it real saving or virtual funds?

7. MOOCs preclude personal contact. This is a frequent criticism and perhaps partially correct. It is up to the designers of the individual class and subject to tailor the class online instruction to include the effective personal contact required for education and student interaction and maturity.

Chris Brazelton  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

4. Standardization offers advantages. As long as there is enough variety to provide a quality learning experience for people with different learning styles and strengths.

6. MOOCs lower costs, easing budgets. It can, it depends on how tuition is structured to see if it will lower the cost of a quality education in the long run.

Bert LeMunyon  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)

6. MOOCs lower costs, easing budgets. Measures need to be formulated to evaluate on-line education vs. classroom education for the same subject matter.

R. C. Angevine  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

Anonymous   (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (5)  (7.5)

7. MOOCs preclude personal contact. I don't think we can move forward thinking that online courses can replace the value that in-person courses offer.  The exchange of ideas between students and professors was invaluable during undergrad and grad school.  However, as a lawyer and a parent, I find great value in being able to watch lectures at my convenience while juggling family responsibilities.  I have taken two high quality online courses through Stanford from my home in MN that I would not otherwise have access to and have significantly benefitted from them as a professional.

Scott Halstead  (0)  (0)  (0)  (5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)

4. Standardization offers advantages. Quality may be excellent or terrible.  If the quality was low, there could be a very large problem.  This tool needs to be utilized where there is limited need for direct contact of others.

7. MOOCs preclude personal contact. It needs be a tool utilized when repetition is required.

Alan Miller  (2.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (0)  (10)

7. MOOCs preclude personal contact. There is no substitute for an in-person, classroom education, no opportunity to properly evaluate the student, or assess responses to dialogue, and many courses do not lend themselves to online learning.  Their value is superficial to what is offered in a one-on-one, or even one-on-forty dialogue, which is becoming more obvious when comparing results with online "university" teaching.

Don Anderson  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (5)  (2.5)  (10)

1. MOOCs are a major innovation. How many of those taking on-line classes are already graduates of a higher education institution?

David Alley  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)

Mark Ritchie  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

This was very helpful - I have constructed and offered online classes  (on trade policy, for students in China) and taken a number of courses in this manner but last year I got hooked on Khan Academy's math and stats classes and have been tracking this very, very closely -- great summary of a very important development underway in education.

Robert J. Brown  (8)  (6)  (10)  (6)  (8)  (8)  (4)

1. MOOCs are a major innovation. Many of the free courses are merely offering individuals an opportunity to learn on their own the way many people did in the pre-electronic age by spending time in the public library.

4. Standardization offers advantages. The financial problems of the for-profit schools indicate that is not as simple as this sounds.

6. MOOCs lower costs, easing budgets. This presumes many things including the ability or desire of elected officials to do what is educationally most sound and not just what is politically expedient.

7. MOOCs preclude personal contact. It all depends on how it is structured.

Carolyn Ring  (10)  (8)  (8)  (5)  (7)  (7)  (10)

Wayne Jennings  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (3)

Clinefelter’s comments remind me of Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation paradigm in which the new innovation will not be as good as the conventional, nor will there be a clamoring market prior to its new product. As time passes, the disruptive innovation gains quality and market thus threatening or overtaking the conventional practice. Clinefelter has described an exciting emerging development.  Higher education needs this development in this era. The information and learning world is undergoing a revolution. I thank Clinefelter and the Civic Caucus for updating us.

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (7)  (8)  (6)  (7)  (6)  (6)  (7)

Fred Senn  (9)  (9)  (10)  (8)  (8)  (6)  (8)

Tom Swain  (7)  (9)  (7)  (7)  (7)  (5)  (10)

William Kuisle  (5)  (7)  (9)  (8)  (8)  (7)  (4)

Tom Spitznagle  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (8)

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (7)  (7)  (9)  (8)  (8)  (8)  (6)

Ray Ayotte  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (5)

Roy Thompson  (9)  (8)  (6)  (6)  (6)  (8)  (7)

Chuck Lutz  (10)  (9)  (9)  (8)  (8)  (9)  (8)

Al Quie  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay,  Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon,
Joe Mansky,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and  Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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