Archive for the ‘MOOC’ Category
“Education is the cartel that technology is going to break next” “Higher education is just on the edge of the crevasse … I think even five years from now these enterprises are going to be in real trouble”. So where once you chose one college or university and hoped that each semester there would be an interesting subject available to you, the availability of MOOCs means that anyone with an internet connection can choose a course from the world’s top universities. For the remote and distant learners I work with, or those in developing countries where university-level education is not universally accessible, it means something even more – being able to study at all, and world-class courses at that. The other example of Education defying its ‘slow to adopt’ past has been the rise of mobile devices and the increased access to content they engender.
This report sets out to help decision makers in higher education institutions gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and trends towards greater openness in higher education and to think about the implications for their institutions. The phenomena of MOOCs are described, placing them in the wider context of open education, online learning and the changes that are currently taking place in higher education at a time of globalisation of education and constrained budgets. The report is written from a UK higher education perspective, but is largely informed by the developments in MOOCs from the USA and Canada. A literature review was undertaken focussing on the extensive reporting of MOOCs through blogs, press releases as well as openly available reports. This identified current debates about new course provision, the impact of changes in funding and the implications for greater openness in higher education. The theory of disruptive innovation is used to help form the questions of policy and strategy that higher education institutions need to address.
Science, engineering and technology courses have been in the vanguard of the massive open online course movement. These classes also are providing fodder for scientific research on learning.
MOOCs had exploded into the academic consciousness in summer 2011, when a free artificial-intelligence course offered by Stanford University in California attracted 160,000 students from around the world — 23,000 of whom finished it. Now, Coursera in Mountain View, California — one of the three researcher-led start-up companies actively developing MOOCs — was inviting the University of Maryland to submit up to five courses for broadcast on its software platform. Loh wanted in. “He was very clear,” says Uriagereka. “We needed to be a part of this.”
As the current generation of college graduates wrangles with an unprecedented amount of debt, a sea change is underway in higher education. More and more elite universities are offering free online courses that might characterize the next iteration of the college experience for the forthcoming generation of students.
Will students be able to receive the equivalent of a bachelors degree for free? How will brick-and-mortar institutions be used in the future? Will academic rigor suffer? How will credentials or tuition apply to those who come to campus and those who complete courses online?
One member of the Coursera team who recently took a Coursera course on sustainability told me that it was so much more interesting than a similar course he had taken as an undergrad. The online course included students from all over the world, from different climates, incomes levels and geographies, and, as a result, “the discussions that happened in that course were so much more valuable and interesting than with people of similar geography and income level” in a typical American college.
“…. you’ll create your own college degree by taking the best online courses from the best professors from around the world — some computing from Stanford, some entrepreneurship from Wharton, some ethics from Brandeis, some literature from Edinburgh — paying only the nominal fee for the certificates of completion. It will change teaching, learning and the pathway to employment.”
As with any new phenomenon, the experience of change and the promise of benefit create a measure of hyperbole. Some say MOOCs are the future of higher education; others contend they are over-hyped. The truth is no one knows where the exploration of online courses will lead. What is clear is that colleges and universities must further innovate in a few critical areas if they are to capitalize on MOOCs to their advantage and the people they serve: Pedagogy, Scalability, Lab experience, Cheating.
Until higher education invents solutions that address these areas of concern, the future and value of MOOCs is uncertain.
A number of different initiatives are offering university-level education for free. Class Central aggregates these free online courses or MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course). Some of the bigger initiatives covered by Class Central are as follows:
- Coursera founded by Stanford Professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng.
- Udacity founded by three roboticists, including Sebastian Thrun, a research professor of computer science at Stanford University and currently leads the development of Google’s driverless car.
- EdX is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Anant Agarwal, former Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, serves as the first president of edX
The leaders of the MOOC movement acknowledge the challenges they face. Perfecting the model, will require “sophisticated inventions” in many areas, from grading essays to granting credentials. This will only get harder as the online courses expand further into the open-ended, exploratory realms of the liberal arts, where knowledge is rarely easy to codify and the success of a class can hinge on a professor’s ability to guide students toward unexpected insights. The outcome of this year’s crop of MOOCs should tell us a lot more about the value of the classes and the role they’ll ultimately play in the educational system.
At least as daunting as the technical challenges will be the existential questions that online instruction raises for universities. Whether massive open courses live up to their hype or not, they will force college administrators and professors to reconsider many of their assumptions about the form and meaning of teaching. For better or worse, the Net’s disruptive forces have arrived at the gates of academia.
I have an article in the new issue of Technology Review, The Crisis in Higher Education, that looks at the phenomenon of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. The free delivery of college classes over the net is stirring a huge amount of excitement this fall, and the organizations pioneering the MOOC model — notably, Coursera, Udacity, and edX — are grabbing a lot of attention and investment. But outsized expectations about revolutions in education have accompanied virtually every major new communication medium in the past, including the postal system, motion pictures, radio, TV, and personal computers. So is today different? Will the combination of breakthroughs in cloud computing, data mining, machine learning, and social networking at last enable distance learning to achieve its grand promise? That’s the question I wrestle with in the article.
While massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are still in their early days, the race has begun to integrate them into traditional colleges — both by making them eligible for transfer credits, and by putting them to use in introductory and remedial courses.
The American Council on Education, the leading umbrella group for higher education, and Coursera, a Silicon Valley MOOC provider, announced a pilot project to determine whether some free online courses are similar enough to traditional college courses that they should be eligible for credit.