A Glimpse into the Future of Higher Education – Harvard’s Michael Sandel Offers Justice Course Online

Sunday, Sep. 27th 2009 9:23 AM

It is deemed to be one of the “most popular courses in Harvard’s history.” And now, thanks to WGBH television and Harvard University, every American has an opportunity to examine the moral and ethical issues that form Michael Sandel’s course “Justice.”

In opening this classroom to the world, Harvard gives us a taste of the future of higher education. With the proper preparation and a gifted-instructor, the course is proof-positive that high quality education can be delivered online.

In fact, one might honestly ask, what is the advantage of actually being seated in the auditorium where Sandel teaches. The incredible numbers of students eliminate any intimacy and any real possibility of discussion within the “classroom setting,” i.e. stadium-style lecture halls.

That said, the critical components of the twelve-part series are the content and the complex moral questions being posed. Addressing the hot topics of our day (affirmative action, same-sex marriage, patriotism and rights), Sandel offers a constant stream of provocative questions that provide for outstanding discussion opportunities.

As but one example of how to use content to drive instruction, in episode 2, How to Measure Pleasure, Sandel offers video clips from three distinct and different elements of the entertainment world: clips from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the reality show Fear Factor, and The Simpsons.

The course also features opinion polls, pop quizzes, in-depth readings and discussion guides offering two levels of debate, beginner and advanced depending on your current background.

As for one rationale for the online version exceeding the traditional classroom model, online classes now offer literally endless possibilities for rich discussions with viewers from around the world. Not only are such discussions impossible in the auditorium where the class is presented, online discussion forums remove the need for students to gather collectively on a single campus.

The two drawbacks? First, there is that same mentality that features the typical time constraints of all education, materials are being released weekly.

Second, the method for earning those all-important credits that can be collected to earn a college diploma.

But as for the model of what could be, Justice is the real deal!


Posted by Thomas | in News | 1 Comment »

One comment on "A Glimpse into the Future of Higher Education – Harvard’s Michael Sandel Offers Justice Course Online"

  • I think that online education is definitely going to become more popular as the years go by. Several of my friends have stopped going to classes due to any number of reasons (anxiety, work, etc.) and have switched to online classes, at the end of which they will receive a diploma that is of equal value to the one they would have received in their respective universities. Though I believe to to be the future, I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing. There is something important about being present in the room when a lecturer is speaking, an energy. It’s sort of like people reading books on Kindle now rather than buying paper copies. Yes, you’re reading the same words and perhaps it is more efficient environmentally, etc. but the experience is completely different; it loses something.


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