Thursday, August 16, 2012

More on MOOCs

My email inbox held several significant updates regarding the "tsunami" issue of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courseware). There were company updates from Coursera (1 million learners!) and Udacity as well as ample speculation regarding how well MOOCs will dominate the market for free, open courseware. There was also speculation of just how sustainable the entire movement is likely to be.

Not surprisingly, there are issues of retention with learners registering for and beginning courses that they don't complete for a variety of reasons. It will be fascinating to watch as the data begins to manifest and key obstacles to retention—and ultimately graduation—are identified and vanquished (ever the optimist, I am!) as education becomes ubiquitous in an increasingly global higher education market.

I have always found the greatest diversity of my neighbors on the campuses of colleges and universities and it's one of the things I love most about working in higher education. The integration of free, open courseware into the more (and less) traditional forms of classroom and online education will enhance that diversity of both learners and teachers exponentially as new technologies give birth to new players in the global movement to teach and to learn. More voices, better dialogue. Most educators I know would agree that diversity of voices adds depth, context and application to knowledge and information. It turns reading, talking and asking into learning, and for everyone involved! As teachers, isn't the most gratifying teaching that which brings us opportunities to learn as well?

The challenge will be to maintain engagement with curriculum, the learner and with a qualified tour guide/subject matter expert in the form of faculty, teachers and instructors. The new learning paradigms require more of both learner and teacher than ever before, but the outcomes promise to bring more relevance and more profound sense of meaning to the experiences of both learners and teachers.

There is an excellent case to be made for the embrace of MOOCs by institutions of traditional higher education. Students who use a combination of self-guided study through a dizzying array of curriculum choices with the guidance, support and curation of faculty/instructors have literally a world of information from which to draw as they practice the skills of problem-solving, collaboration, design, engineering, teaching, researching and discovering. From that post (emphasis mine):

"The promise of MOOCs is their inclusion in the creative design of individual programs of study for degrees and certificates, and the force that will drive it is the most intimate, natural, and informal sort of dialogue that transpires between teacher and student. In this scenario, the teacher becomes guide, advisor, and facilitator; and the student, an active participant in the planning. Together, they will explore all the learning resources in the world to generate an individualized plan that meets the student’s goals and the college’s standards. When this happens, we’ll begin to realize that MOOCs, as a tsunami, have transformed rather than destroyed higher ed, and the changes will redefine the roles of students and teachers as well as the structure of courses, the sources of content, the process of learning, and the forms of degrees and certificates."

There is an entire globe full of people who want to learn, and there's a place for everyone at the table, both learners and teachers. As the tsunami approaches, the distinction between the two continues to blur.

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