Clay Shirky Says MOOCs Will Matter, but Worries About Corporate Players

Clay Shirky, a best-selling author and an associate arts professor at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, is known for predicting how the latest tech trends will change traditional social institutions. These days he’s turning his focus to colleges themselves, imagining ways that MOOCs and other technologies might reshape higher education.

“For as long as students and their parents have nervously scanned tuition bills, they’ve asked themselves, ‘Isn’t there another way to do this?’” he wrote in a recent essay on The Chronicle’s Web site. “And for that long, the answer has been ‘no.’ Now, for the first time, the answer is ‘maybe.’”

Earlier this month I sat down with Mr. Shirky to talk about MOOCs. He shared his thoughts on whom the massive open online courses might best serve, and his concerns about the role of for-profit companies, including Coursera and Udacity, in many MOOC experiments.

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