C&B Notes

Free Shoes From Korea

Massively open online courses (MOOCs) are increasingly disrupting traditional secondary education.  We follow this shift in learning closely, and Thomas Friedman recently weighed in with some telling anecdotes:

I was picked up at Logan Airport by my old friend Michael Sandel, who teaches the famous Socratic, 1,000-student “Justice” course at Harvard, which is launching March 12 as the first humanities offering on the M.I.T.-Harvard edX online learning platform.  When he met me at the airport I saw he was wearing some very colorful sneakers.  “Where did you get those?” I asked.  Well, Sandel explained, he had recently been in South Korea, where his Justice course has been translated into Korean and shown on national television.  It has made him such a popular figure there that the Koreans asked him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a professional baseball game — and gave him the colored shoes to boot!  Yes, a Harvard philosopher was asked to throw out the first pitch in Korea because so many fans enjoy the way he helps them think through big moral dilemmas.

Sandel had just lectured in Seoul in an outdoor amphitheater to 14,000 people, with audience participation.  His online Justice lectures, with Chinese subtitles, have already had more than 20 million views on Chinese Web sites, which prompted The China Daily to note that “Sandel has the kind of popularity in China usually reserved for Hollywood movie stars and N.B.A. players.”

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…Harvard Business School doesn’t teach entry-level accounting anymore, because there is a professor out at Brigham Young University whose online accounting course “is just so good” that Harvard students use that instead.  When outstanding becomes so easily available, average is over.