The Open Courseware Movement in Higher Education: Unmasking Power and Raising Questions about the Movement's Democratic Potential



In this essay Robert Rhoads, Jennifer Berdan, and Brit Toven-Lindsey examine some of the key literature related to the open courseware (OCW) movement (including the emergence and expansion of massive open online courses, or MOOCs), focusing particular attention on the movement's democratic potential. The discussion is organized around three central problems, all relating in some manner or form to issues of power: the problem of epistemology, the problem of pedagogy, and the problem of hegemony. More specifically, the authors raise issues related to the narrow notion of knowledge typically conveyed in the OCW movement, a limited understanding of what constitutes empowering pedagogy, and the lack of treatment of inequities associated with the production of courseware materials. The authors go on to argue that the lack of critical analysis of the OCW movement is tied to its relative alignment with educational reforms driven by neoliberal ideology and that such alignment serves to limit the movement's democratic possibilities.