Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

MOOCs: Parallel Process To Health Care

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on May 22, 2013


This last week’s New Yorker got me thinking about MOOCs. This Massive Open Online Course, which sounds, like healthcare, a way in which technology, to huge benefits of many folks, is taking away the teacher/student relationship in the same way that advanced electronics is taking away the doctor/patient relationship. Clearly, I can see huge advantages. The internet opens up education to people throughout the world who would never have access to high quality professors. Similarly, more efficient medical systems will open healthcare to many people who could only see a physician in an emergency. Yet, I am also thinking of the cost of this change in delivery: be it healthcare or education. Many students learn by developing a personal relationship with his teacher. Similarly, many people are inspired to take care of themselves because of their relationship with their physician. Technology, in these two settings,  seems to pretend that the relationship is not a critical factor in personal growth. This is the problem I wrestle with. I suppose that these relationships are only going to be available to the privileged and in that way, the huge wealth gap in the world will persist. The issue will no longer be access to education or access to healthcare, but the issue will be access to individual mentors who can monitor and encourage progress. This latter relationship will be costly and prohibitive for most folks. That makes me sad.


File:MOOC poster mathplourde.jpg

2 Responses to “MOOCs: Parallel Process To Health Care”

  1. Jon said

    Here is another way to think of MOOCs with which you can wrestle. Consider MOOCs as a 21st century textbook. They do not replace traditional books or teachers, but supplement them. While one can be sad about the costly and perhaps prohibitive nature of either the teacher/student or the doctor/patient relationship, I suggest a rejoicing in the access to vetted good information and instruction.

    • Shirah Vollmer said

      I suppose this is a half-full, half-empty discussion, as I do rejoice while also feeling sad at the same time. Thanks.

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