Over at the New Republic, Nora Caplan-Bricker reviews the progress of the Black Mountain Self-Organized learning Environment (SOLE), which has set out to use MOOCs in place of live instruction.
FOR THOSE THINKING ABOUT MAKING MOOCS THE BACKBONE OF A LIVE-IN COLLEGE, THIS ARTICLE IS MUST READING.
Oddly, the SOLE (for self-organized learning environment) is housed at buildings formerly serving the famous Black Mountain College. (Martin Duberman has written a revealing history of the College: Black Mountain An Exploration in Community.
But the similarities end there. Black Mountain was organized by some of the most important artists and poets and thinkers of its time. This reincarnation of Black Mountain is the day dream of two ill-prepared dreamers. Black Mountain attracted the most creative intellectual and artistic leaders in the country and abroad - this non-college has so far attracted a motley crew of drifters. Most important, despite the idea of the MOOC background, it appears that nobody actually takes MOOCs - they are too demanding. Instead, navel gazing appears to be the main pre-occupation of most students in the arts and humanities, while the more entrepreneurial students spend all day working on their start ups.
As Caplan-Bricker sums up the fuzzy logic of the organization,
Black Mountain attracts a hodgepodge of Merrell-wearing commune veterans and aspiring Silicon Valley transplants. The language of the Blueprints borrowed from both: a trip to the bathroom was a “bio break,” but “to execute on” was a ubiquitous compound verb. The classroom walls were lined with scribbled brainstorming webs and statements of purpose on easel sheets. “THE FOUR PRINCIPLES,” said one, in blue and green marker. “Whoever comes are the right people. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. Whenever it starts is the right time. When it’s over, it’s over.”
At the bottom, it proclaimed “THE ONE LAW,” which is “The Law of Two Feet”: The school’s “SOLEmates”—its term for students—can attend what they choose and leave when they please.Anyone reading this failed experiment as a test case for MOOCs hasn't paid the first scrap of attention to it.