U.S. Intellectual History Blog

S-USIH ad hoc Committee on MOOCs

Current members of the S-USIH have already received an email about the Society’s newly-established ad hoc committee on MOOCs and the teaching of U.S. intellectual history in colleges and universities.  As the appointed chair of this new committee, I would like to take this opportunity to inform our blog’s readers of the decision, explain what the committee will be doing, and issue a call for those interested in either serving on the committee or assisting the committee in its work, to contact me.

Below is the announcement emailed to the S-USIH membership on behalf of our outgoing President, Paul Murphy:

Most of us have been reading about “massive open online courses” (MOOCs) for the last year or so, including the very rapid creation of new companies specializing in the production of these courses (Coursera, edX, Udacity), often in alliance with prestigious universities; suggestions to approve the courses for credit at colleges and universities in the U.S. as a cost-saving measure and a promising pedagogical innovation; and legislative pressure to mandate MOOCs as an option in certain circumstances in the state of California.  Recently, edX has indicated plans to offer a course in U.S. Intellectual History.

The Executive Committee of S-USIH has voted to establish an ad hoc committee on MOOCs and the teaching of U.S. intellectual history in colleges and universities, which has been tasked with investigating and reporting on this phenomenon and bringing a suggestion for a statement regarding MOOCs as related to the teaching of US Intellectual History to the S-USIH membership at the annual meeting to be held Nov. 1-3, 2013, at the University of California, Irvine.  Our outgoing Publications Chair, L. D. Burnett has been appointed to chair the committee; all those interested in serving on it should contact her.

You will note that the investigative scope of the committee is specifically focused on the question of MOOCs and pedagogy within the field of U.S. intellectual history.  Many of us no doubt have strong, differing opinions on the larger issue of MOOCs and American higher education more generally.  However, given the  purpose and profile of the S-USIH as an academic society specifically concerned with the field of U.S. intellectual history,  however broadly construed, we thought it best and wisest to limit our inquiry to the pedagogical matters that our members probably know best and care about most:  adhering to the highest standards of scholarly and pedagogical practice as historians, and training future scholars to maintain those high standards as teachers and mentors.

The task of the committee will be to consider carefully how MOOCs may or may not serve to enhance or support outstanding pedagogy in U.S. intellectual history, and to bring a report of these findings to the S-USIH membership at our annual meeting in November.  This report may include a recommendation for the S-USIH to issue a formal statement regarding the creation or use of MOOCs by U.S. intellectual historians.  That will depend on the work and the will of the committee as a whole.

While we hope to see a strong representation of U.S. intellectual historians on this committee, we would also like to avail ourselves of the advice and insight of those whose academic or pedagogic expertise may lie in other areas.  That might include historians from other sub-disciplines who have experience with MOOCs, sociologists working on various aspects of MOOCs and higher education, cognitive psychologists, and so forth.

Additionally, we would like to hear from other historical associations (the AHA, the OAH, SHEAR, etc.), professional organizations representing other academic disciplines (MLA, ASA, etc.), and professional organizations representing  or addressing academic interests more broadly (AAUP) regarding any initiatives they may be pursuing related to the effect that MOOCs may have on areas of concern to their members.

If you would like to serve on this committee, please contact me at the following email address:  Lora [DOT] Burnett [AT-SYMBOL] utdallas [DOT] edu.  I ask that you please use the subject heading “MOOC committee” in your correspondence.

Our committee’s work will be done by a combination of email and teleconference meetings, with perhaps one face-to-face meeting early in the fall semester.  My goal is for us to have a draft statement / report available to circulate to S-USIH members for comment before our annual meeting.  I plan to present the final findings of the committee to the membership in person at the annual meeting in November.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.  And since this is a blog post, your comments below are both expected and appreciated.


L.D. Burnett

One Thought on this Post

S-USIH Comment Policy

We ask that those who participate in the discussions generated in the Comments section do so with the same decorum as they would in any other academic setting or context. Since the USIH bloggers write under our real names, we would prefer that our commenters also identify themselves by their real name. As our primary goal is to stimulate and engage in fruitful and productive discussion, ad hominem attacks (personal or professional), unnecessary insults, and/or mean-spiritedness have no place in the USIH Blog’s Comments section. Therefore, we reserve the right to remove any comments that contain any of the above and/or are not intended to further the discussion of the topic of the post. We welcome suggestions for corrections to any of our posts. As the official blog of the Society of US Intellectual History, we hope to foster a diverse community of scholars and readers who engage with one another in discussions of US intellectual history, broadly understood.

  1. I probably should have mentioned this in the post — we would be especially interested in hearing from the historian(s) who is/are working with EdX to develop a MOOC for 20th century U.S. intellectual history.

    This particular project, which may only be in its very early stages, was mentioned on May 10 by Howard Lurie, VP of EdX, during a plenary session at the annual meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies.

    It would be interesting to find out which U.S. intellectual historians EdX is planning/hoping to work with, and get those scholars’ views on how MOOCs fit in with pedagogical practices in the discipline.

Comments are closed.