Liberal Education: Fall, 2013

Current Issue


Massive Open Online Courses

The authors of this issue's featured articles take a hard look at the phenomenon of the MOOC, the hype surrounding it, and its relation to the aims and purposes of both liberal learning and democratic education. Other authors provide a critique of competency-based education, take stock of the achievements and shortcomings of European educational reform fifteen years into the Bologna Process, propose a new field of interfaith studies, call for educators to promote civil discourse, and reflect on the "liberating" aspects of a liberal education.

Table of Contents
From 1818 R Street NW

By David Tritelli

By Michael Bassis
President Emeritus
Westminster College, Utah

Featured Topic

By Aaron Bady
There is almost nothing new about the kind of online education that the word MOOC now describes. It’s been given a great deal of hype and publicity, but that aura of “innovation” poorly describes a technology that is not that distinct from the longer story of online education and that is designed to reinforce and reestablish the status quo.

By Scott L. Newstok
Some people pushing for MOOCs, to their credit, speak from laudably egalitarian impulses to provide access for disadvantaged students. But to what are these students being given access? Are broadcast lectures and online discussions the sum of a liberal education, or is it something
more than “content” delivery? 

By Leland Carver and Laura M. Harrison
If MOOCs are truly on the point of “revolutionizing” higher education, then several important questions must urgently be raised and discussed—questions grounded in core social beliefs about the purpose of education.


By Johann N. Neem
A good liberal arts education is not just about learning to write well or to think critically, or any other specific outcome or competency. Instead, it is also about putting students into contexts in which they are exposed to new ideas, asked to chew on them, and to talk or write about them.

By Paul L. Gaston
If the vision of Bologna should prove insufficient to sustain its agenda, the most important accomplishment of the Bologna Process may be its having established a base camp from which a more important climb can begin.

By Eboo Patel
Scholars from a range of fields have long taken an interest in how people who orient around religion differently interact with one another. As the activity in this area increases, one crucial role for the academy is to give some definition to what is clearly an emerging field of research, study, and practice.

By Andrea Leskes
Once we accept that students need to become adept civil discoursers—for their own and democracy’s good—how can college education foster this important skill?

My View

By Robert A. Scott
Undergraduate education is and must be as much about character and citizenship as about careers and commerce.

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