MOOCs – Magnificent, Monsters or Malediction

Random thoughts
Random thoughts by Truthout.org

Thanks to Kate Bowles (@KateMfD) for sending me a link to an open Coursesites web site (free registration) that has been created for the MOOC discussion at the forthcoming Universities Australia 2014 conference. Anyone can register and comment in the discussion area and I would encourage those that are interested to do so.

There are six questions in the discussion area; these are:

  • What have been the most significant impacts of MOOCs?
  • What have we learned about teaching and learning from the experience with MOOCs?
  • What impacts do you think MOOCs will have on university business models and who do you think will be most affected?
  • What do you think higher education will look like in 20 years’ time?
  • What questions should we be asking ourselves now about change in higher education?
  • What are the three best articles you have read on MOOCs?

If you don’t want to register on Coursesites and see the discussion there you can always have a look at my random thoughts. They are below:

What have been the most significant impacts of MOOCs?

Greater awareness of wholly online learning as a valid model of higher education.

A wake up call for universities that think a model of learning based upon knowledge scarcity is sustainable in world with knowledge abundance that is no longer guarded solely by university gatekeepers.

New innovations in peer assessment and peer learning.

A demonstration of the ability for some organisations to think and act with agility in a sector characterised by conservatism and resistance to change.

What have we learned about teaching and learning from the experience with MOOCs?

That delivering a course to thousands of students simultaneously is challenging, particularly when it comes to assessment.

That peer assessment can be very effective when managed well.

That connectivist MOOCs also create challenges and require experienced learners.

That instructivist MOOCs use pedagogy and core technology that has been available and used for years but has been ignored until it was ‘discovered’ by elite US universities. Having said that, some of their assessment technology is very innovative.

That MOOC retention rates are a completely irrelevant indicator of quality.

That it can be difficult to provide the necessary interactivity and access to expertise in a very large instructivist MOOC.

That MOOCs can adapt very quickly and are improving much more rapidly than any closed course would be it online or offline.

What trends do you see for the future of technology in higher education?

Distribution and personalisation. Students will use their own devices at a time and place that suits them.

Small private course sites for those that want to study a course with a heavy focus on high quality learning design.

Continued and improved use of short video coupled with activities (online or offline) and collaboration.

The decline of lecture capture technology, the decline of institutional portfolios. The decline of the LMS as a container for learning content. It will continue for other purposes and increasingly integrate with third party services.

The rise of subject based learning environments that allow for ongoing development of learning communities and resources with no time based restrictions for those that want to self-learn.

High level transportability for students to be able to move share and manage their own data and their own online identity.

What impacts do you think MOOCs will have on university business models and who do you think will be most affected?

MOOCs aren’t the problem for universities. The whole internet is a problem for universities, as they are currently structured. For many learners the entire internet is already their MOOC. They interact with peers and experts, the learn how to code, cook and crochet. They engage in discussions that encourage critical thinking. They make things to demonstrate their capability and share things and contribute to learning communities.

This means that any course that a university offers has to be a) far better than what someone could learn for free online and b) much, much cheaper.

In many cases a. is currently not true and b. certainly isn’t. That needs to change. The time-served model of higher education also needs to change. Self-learning will increase but students will often want accreditation of that learning. Universities can provide that. They can also provide high quality courses for a reasonable fee.

The institutions that will be most affected are the large universities focussing on undergraduate delivery and taught post grad courses in the traditional model.

Elite universities will remain largely unchanged.

What do you think higher education will look like in 20 years’ time?

More (but smaller and more focussed) higher education institutions restricted by less red tape and, often, close integration with the workplace and with the relevant professional accreditation bodies.

Highly flexible courses that will start and finish as needed and not be constrained by a medieval agrarian calendar.

The ability for students to demonstrate their own learning and receive accreditation regardless of having a completed a course.

The ability for students to collect subjects from different institutions and put them into an increasingly important personal portfolio (not an institutional portfolio). This leads to a diminution in the importance of the degree as a collection of subjects.

Far fewer students in full time higher education at any one time but overall, more students interacting with multiple higher education institutions part time throughout their life.

It will be the case that school leaving students will represent a far smaller proportion of the student body. They may undertake a collective first year on campus which focusses on strategies for higher learning and self-learning after which they spend most of their time in the workplace studying at their own pace and coming to the campus for short learning experiences with a high value add

What questions should we be asking ourselves now about change in higher education?

Simple. What would be the best model for tertiary education in the 21st century and how can we get there?

What are the three best articles you have read on MOOCs?

Here’s my Scoop.it collection.

2 thoughts on “MOOCs – Magnificent, Monsters or Malediction”

  1. Balance and thoughtful considerations, Mark, as always.

    An acquaintance of mine recently asked for my thoughts on whether MOOCs are misunderstood; are they actually great and do they have place in L&D offerings in corporate environments? I replied as follows…

    “I see the MOOC vs SHMOOC debate polarised between those who love them and those who loathe them. I find both extremes unenlightening.

    In my opinion, MOOCs won’t revolutionise education, but they will influence it for the better. Similarly, while MOOCs may not be pedagogically perfect, they open access to expertise and networking opportunities.

    For these reasons and more, I advocate the use of MOOCs in the corporate environment – on the proviso they are aligned to business goals, are properly supported, and are integrated into a wider blended L&D strategy.”

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