Even robots have biases.
Any decision process, whether human or algorithm, about what to include, exclude, or emphasize — processes of which Google News has many — has the potential to introduce bias. What’s interesting in terms of algorithms though is that the decision criteria available to the algorithm may appear innocuous while at the same time resulting in output that is perceived as biased.
MOOCs condense and fracture course material and present it in the pithiest, shallowest form. They lack improvisation, serendipity, and familiarity. They pander to the broadest possible audience because in the MOOC economy—such as it is—enrollment is currency and quality is measured by the number of people who have checked in without subtracting the number who check out.
That’s not to say that MOOCs could not improve greatly, as I trust they will. But the unfounded hyperbole surrounding MOOCs ignores the real outstanding work professors in all fields have been doing integrating digital and multimedia tools into their courses and the outstanding work being done with online courses that have reasonable, controlled enrollments.
Siva Vaidhyanathan, Cato Unbound. A New Era of Unfound Hyperbole.
By MOOCs he means the massive open online courses like those offered through Coursera, Udacity, University of the People, etc. — courses that could potentially upset the accreditation system of university education. But don’t take the above quote out of context. Vaidhyanathan doesn’t mean to write that MOOCs are bad or harmful. He writes that the excitement surrounding them may limit their scope.
cheapening reducing the cost of education, can be used to do what university courses cannot — reach students outside of the traditional academic world.
Take Clay Shirky’s post on MOOCs from last week:
MOOCs expand the audience for education to people ill-served or completely shut out from the current system, in the same way phonographs expanded the audience for symphonies to people who couldn’t get to a concert hall, and PCs expanded the users of computing power to people who didn’t work in big companies.