#Oped12 The Future of Higher Education and the MOOCs

With thanks to  John Mak for this post:

This talk by Michele Pistone discusses the future of higher education, which has been based on the same educational model for more than 100 years.

But the status quo is about to be disrupted, by the Internet and those educators — including new competitors — who would unleash its potential. Higher education institutions at a whole have not adequately recognized the threat to the status quo, or come close to responding adequately to it. In truth, responding adequately will be very difficult, because higher ed face a classic innovator’s dilemma. (TED video description)

There are many questions that relate to the future of higher education:

1. What would be the future role of Higher Education Institutions and Universities in the global and local communities?

2. What would they do, in times of rapid changes in society and a quest for more responsive to the needs and expectations of the society, government, learners and educators?

3. How would they do it differently?

One of the significant responses to these questions is the MOOC movement, with the introduction of x MOOCs by some of the prestigious Higher Education Institutions and Universities.

Here in an overview of MOOC, a typical MOOC likes Coursera is run based on the following design and delivery

With Coursera, the faculty member developing a course can either record lectures as presented to a class of students, or can make the recording in a studio or other location. The professor can then supplement the video with assessments—like quizzes—that can be automatically graded using Coursera software. The courses also include mastery-building interactive assignments and collaborative online forums. Time commitment varies; courses can range from a few weeks to over two months.

Ray Schroeder elaborates in this post on “how did we get here in the first place” – with MOOC, and what will happen next.  Ray explains that maturing of the internet, the recession that happened a few years ago and the rate of increase in college tuition and fees in recent years have led to the development and demand of such xMOOCs.

He further concludes: “These announcements point to the potential for a radically different higher education marketplace, disrupted by MOOCs. Classes with massive enrollment from a relatively small group of providers may dominate the market for many courses, and perhaps even degree programs. Colleges and universities may become brokers of credentials gathered from many sources, in many formats.”  I think this would soon have a multiplier effect, where more institutions would establish their own MOOCs or join the current MOOCs partnership, in order to be the leaders in this MOOC movement.

In this Schaffhauser, Dian. “Education Leaders See MOOCs, Distance Learning as the Future of Higher Ed.” Campus Technology 20 Aug. 2012. Web.http://campustechnology.com/articles/2012/08/20/education-leaders-see-moocs-distance-learning-as-the-future.aspx

“The overall findings of the survey stated in the form of an equation might be: Today’s tough economy + market dynamics + technological advances = a higher education environment by 2020 in which 1) most people will get at least some of their education in massive open online courses; 2) a fairly large percentage will get all of their education in MOOCs; and 3) only a select few are likely to be able to afford to experience a fully campus-based, face-to-face education,” said principal author Janna Quitney Anderson, director of Imagining the Internet and associate professor in Elon’s School of Communications

I have been wondering how these MOOCs would evolve.  It seems that the current trend of more and more higher education institutions joining in the x MOOCs would likely exhibit the patterns as shown in the figure below, where such disruptive innovations (MOOCs) would soon out-perform the higher education institutions in a number of respects, especially in terms of the number of registrations of the students to MOOCs on a global basis, the attraction of global learners to those higher education institutions, and the branding in an international market, in the adoption of innovations in education and online education.

However, there may be challenges to such xMOOCs when it comes to the quality accreditation (such as those plagiarism and identity problems), and the sustainability of the business models (i.e. how it would be  financed in the long run).  There are also numerous critics on the pedagogy employed in xMOOCs, where concerns are made on the push education model where knowledge is pre-packaged and broadcasted, basically on a knowledge transfer model from the professor to the learners, with machine grading for the assessment.  It seems that there are little ACTUAL interaction between participants and the professor throughout the course, especially when the course participants amounted to tens of thousands.  See my previous post on the merits and demerits of the MOOCs.

In this connection, it may be important to speculate the future of MOOCs using the Product Life Cycle concept.  There are lots of assumptions behind this Product Life Cycle, and that we need more information in order to complete the Cycle.

First, what would be the Product Life Cycle like?

I reckon the current x MOOCs are at the stage of growth, though the business models are still emerging, see this post and this post on the possible models.

Institutions and MOOCs providers would likely refine their MOOCs as more experiences are gained, based on the feedback of the professors and learners, and the findings from the researches.  Also, there would be more intense competition among the different MOOCs providers in showcasing their brands, together with the “travelling” free study groups and free webinars and conferences to further attract new institutions on board and new learners to participate in the courses.  This might take two to three years for the growth to fully develop.

I would speculate that after 2 years of growth, in around 2014, the MOOCs would mature into global platforms where there would be different categories, with x MOOCs, c MOOCs and hybrid c & x MOOCs etc. all building their reputation in a global market.

What would happen next?  What do you think?

Photo credit: this post.

Why MOOCs will not save universities

Dr Stefan Popenici reviews discussions about economics, moocs and universities’ role in changing themselves or having less impact on what could be described as education. He highlights differences in perceptions of academic roles, their status and influences on changing academic practices. He looks at the current economic models and management practices where risk taking by both academics and students has not been ecnouraged or supported.

He looks at the ‘ideas’ initiatives which churn out ideas and describes how a push for greater efficiency is removing the conversation away from universities

These forums of ideas and debate have no equivalent initiative organized by an academic institution in the last decade. This used to be an integral part of any university mission, but the culture of debate, inquiry, exploration and public conversation crumbled under the pressure of efficiency. Universities are not capable nor even interested to have something similar and most academic conferences are now paper-presentation-marathons with little if any discussion about what goes today as serious research

He goes on to look at Moocs and questions the economic viability, the engagement of large audiences and reflects on the ability of tools and platforms to realistically change the future.


Building Democratic Learning: The limits of Moocs

Fred Garnett writing from the WikiQuals project, mentions how he has been participating in several MOOCs and working on various open projects for several years. He calls the content-driven MOOCs #edspam which refers to the new range of MOOCs that have emerged after the original connectivist MOOCs. He refers to a discussion where commenters have said that the for students following Coursera MOOCs there is limited navigation opportunities. He reflects on the concept of distributed knowledge:

I don’t see that Connectivism MOOCs are creating distributed knowledge either, although they are distributing new practice and asking new questions about learning. The participants seem to be acting more like Wenger’s’ Technology Stewards within evolving Digital Habitats, (who walk at 45 between hierarchies & networks) revealing new ecologies of learning, or at least new Personal Learning Environments and Personal Learning Networks. It is this networked learning potential that is really exciting in the hype-world that MOOCs currently exist in. Sadly the MOOC is becoming a box in which institutions are trying to capture this evolving practice so they can sell it; they are trying to build an e-education service delivery model.

He discusses American educational policies and his own experience teaching in the US, reflecting on Open Access Models and Open Scholarship  and links to a slideshare he created of a recent discussion on education and what is emerging alongside market influences and makes suggestions for how to create participatory democratic education.

Online Learning is where Online Music was Five Years Ago

Andrew Maynard at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies reflects on the impact of youtube with online education, reporting on a panel at VidCon where all the panelists were not formally trained or from institutions but experienced online educators.

As new tools come online, educational institutions are jumping on the band-wagon to provide instructional content.  Initiatives like Coursera and edX are bringing college course material to a far wide audience using online video.  But even these innovations are in danger of looking turgid and outmoded in comparison to the new breed of community educators.

In full

The Scholarly Web

John Elmes refers to a blog post by Professor Martin Weller who feels that the development of a more formal structure for MOOCs is likely. He has been an advocate of open education but has some reservations about MOOCs.

The beauty of forming a MOOC, he says, was that it “allowed you to explore new pedagogy…and subject matter”. He believes the latest models are too conventional.

Professor Weller also worries that, while they are free, they are not open in the sense of being “reusable and openly accessible”.

He is also concerned that if MOOCs were to develop a commercial aspect, it would not be long before “they are engaged in Facebook-type data selling, for instance”.

In full

Is Sebastian Thrun’s Udacity the future of higher education?

William Bennett, U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush interviewed Sebastian Thrun about Udacity and participation in the Stanford AI MOOC, reporting on CNN.

He explains the interest in the AI content and how they have now launched 11 additional STEM courses available in the same MOOC format. They are partnering with US companies to encourage them to employ people with Udacity certificates and doing more extensive checking on in-person testing centers to verify identities and knowledge.

“I asked Thrun whether his enterprise and others like it will be the end of higher education as we know it — exclusive enclaves for a limited number of students at high tuitions? “I think it’s the beginning of higher education,” Thrun replied. “It’s the beginning of higher education for everybody.”

In full

Can Free Online Courses Transform the Higher Education Industry?

Knowledge@Wharton provide their take on higher education, MOOCS and change. They report on a participant of the AI Stanford course who got a job in machine learning shortly afterwards. They look back at online education initiatives in recent years and wonder if this is different

Why might Coursera or another of the new enterprises succeed where others have failed? For one, the technology has evolved. Video and audio are crisper. Desktop sharing tools and discussion boards are easier to navigate. There is greater access to Internet libraries. Course developers also have a more nuanced understanding of how people learn online and the best ways to present information in that format. Coursera, for example, slices lectures into digestible 10- or 15-minute segments and provides online quizzes as part of each section. Professors answer questions from students in online forums. This is a vast improvement from previous online education ventures that offered a less dynamic learning model where students watched canned lectures, with no interaction.

In full

Free online courses at Harvard and MIT

Seniors Aloud proving that there is never a time to stop learning – excited by the new opportunities presented by MOOCs.

For older adults and retirees keen on going back to school again, this news is heaven-sent. With an empty nest at home and time on their hands, this is a wonderful opportunity for them to acquire new knowledge and prevent the brain from getting rusty.

If you think that your age might pose an obstacle to learning, look at Dr Allan Stewart a former dental surgeon from Australia. Last Friday he obtained his fourth degree – Master in Clinical Science (Complementary Medicine) at the ripe old age of 97!!!  He currently holds the world record for being the oldest graduate.

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Will MOOCs Promote Superstar Teaching Over Superstar Research At Princeton And Other Ivy Universities?

Paul Glader suggests that with the current MOOC hype attracting large numbers of students, that there will be a renewed focus on teaching rather than research.

Kevin Carey sees MOOCs setting up a power struggle between the two coasts of knowledge power – the West Coast, Silicon Valley-based tech sector and the DC to Boston corridor of Ivy League and elite colleges. “I’m not sure who will end up running the place,” he says. “Colleges don’t have a monopoly on expertise

Paul also notes critiques of MOOCs that question whether knowledge is democratized through these types of offerings.

In full

Math MOOC – Coming this fall. Let’s Teach the World

Keith Devlin of Stanford University is on a mission to educate the world with a five week Maths Mooc this autumn. He reflects on the experiences of his colleagues who have set up Udacity and Coursera following the activity in their Moocs. He wants to develop a community of others who are also running Maths courses at that time of year to connect with each other

Learning is all about human interaction. The technology just provides the medium for that interaction. In offering my math transition MOOC at the start of the fall term, when many colleges and universities offer their own transition course, I am inviting any instructor who will be giving such a course, together with their students, to join me and my MOOC students online, making interaction with other students around the world a part of a much larger learning community

In full