A couple years ago, Sebastian Thrun, a robotics professor at Stanford started the first MOOC (massively open online course). Since that time, open access education has spread broad and wide, with major universities publishing whole courses to the internet for free. While there are pros and cons to any move like this, I think on the whole that open access education is a great thing for the public. It gives people access to great teachers and great learning for free. It might be bad for the guild of teachers and professors who could find themselves out of a job, as the more famous folks soak up the students for free online. We’ll see what happens.
In this setting, I have found a few open access biblical studies courses worth looking at. Hopefully, over time, many more of these courses will be out there. But for now, there are a few interesting ones:
- Daniel Fleming, “Cultures and Contexts,” NYU
- Christine Hayes, “Introduction to the Old Testament,” Yale
- Dale B. Martin, “Introduction to the New Testament,” Yale
- Laura Nasrallah, “Early Christianity: The Letters of Paul,” Harvard
This is not to say that I agree with everything in these courses, but I think they show how powerful MOOC technology can be. I also don’t know what the viewership or subscriber numbers are. These offer good examples of where education for Bible students may be headed.
I am very curious as to how all this will develop, as I’ve written before, but I’m not the only one. Bernard Bull posted an interesting piece on this same topic recently. To me, the “narrowness” of any perspective, whether religious or secular, will be deeply challenged by the new MOOC era. In any class now, a student can Google everything the teacher says, check facts on Wikipedia and now even watch other professors teach the same material. The personal relationship of trust with a teacher that we are accustomed to is going to change in unexpected ways. I still believe teachers will be essential, but I think their role will change from being a source of content, to being a source of guidance.