We’re at a curious point in the hype cycle of educational innovation, where the hottest concept of the past year–Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs–is simultaneously being discovered by the mainstream media, even as the education-focused press is declaring them dead. “More Proof MOOCs are Hot,” and “MOOCs Embraced By Top Universities,” said the Wall Street Journal and USA Today last week upon the announcement that Coursera had received a $43 million round of funding to expand its offerings;
“Beyond MOOC Hype” was the nearly simultaneous headline in Inside Higher Ed.
Can MOOCs really be growing and dying at the same time?
The best way to resolve these contradictory signals is probably to accept that the MOOC, itself still an evolving innovation, is little more than a rhetorical catchall for a set of anxieties around teaching, learning, funding and connecting higher education to the digital world. This is a moment of cultural transition. Access to higher education is strained. The prices just keep rising. Questions about relevance are growing. The idea of millions of students from around the world learning from the worlds’ most famous professors at very small marginal cost, using the latest in artificial intelligence and high-bandwidth communications, is a captivating one that has drawn tens of millions in venture capital. Yet, partnerships between MOOC platforms and public institutions like SUNY and the University of California to create self-paced blended courses and multiple paths to degrees look like a sensible next step for the MOOC, but they are far from that revolutionary future. Separate ideas like blended learning and plain old online delivery seem to be blurring with and overtaking the MOOC–even Blackboard is using the term.
The time seems to be ripe for a reconsideration of the “Massive” impact of “Online” and “Open” learning. TheReclaim Open Learning initiative is a growing community of teachers, researchers and learners in higher education dedicated to this reconsideration. Supporters include the MIT Media Lab and the MacArthur Foundation-supported Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. I am honored to be associated with the project as a documentarian and beater of the drum.
Entries are currently open for our Innovation Contest, offering a $2000 incentive to either teachers or students who have projects to transform higher education in a direction that is connected and creative, is open as in open content and open as in open access, that is participatory, that takes advantage of some of the forms and practices that the MOOC also does but is not beholden to the narrow mainstream MOOC format (referring instead to some of the earlier iterations of student-created, distributed MOOCscreated by Dave Cormier, George Siemens, Stephen Downes and others.)
Current entries include a platform to facilitate peer to peer language learning, a Skype-based open-access seminar with guests from around the world, and a student-created course in educational technology. Go hereto add your entry! Deadline is August 2. Our judges include Cathy Davidson (HASTAC), Joi Ito (MIT), and Paul Kim (Stanford).
Reclaim Open Learning earlier sponsored a hackathon at the MIT Media Lab. This fall, September 27 and 28, our judges and contest winners will join us at a series of conversations and demo days to Reclaim Open Learning at the University of California, Irvine. If you’re interested in continuing the conversation, join us there or check us out online.
May 17, 2013 2:00-3:00 pm ET – free to all. Presenter; John Sener
This MOOCOW (Massive Open Online Course Or Whatever) to explore John Sener’s book “ The Seven Futures of American Education: Improving Learning & Teaching in a Screen-Captured World.”
NOTE: Login instructions for the session will be sent in the Registration Confirmation Email. Please check your Junk folder as sometimes these emails get trapped there. We will also send an additional login reminder 24 hours prior to the start of the event.
From: <Proffitt>, Merrilee <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Thursday, April 25, 2013 2:39 PM To: “Proffitt,Merrilee” <email@example.com> Subject: Outputs from MOOCs and Libraries meeting
I’m writing to you again, as promised, to let you know that ALL of the outputs from our MOOCs and Libraries meeting are now available online. You may have already seen the announcement below, but just in case this escaped your attention, I am sending it to you, directly. I hope you will use and share!
“MOOCs and Libraries: Massive Opportunity or Overwhelming Challenge?” Event Summarized in Series of Six Hangingtogether Blog Posts
The 18-19 March “MOOCs and Libraries: Massive Opportunity or Overwhelming Challenge?” event featured thoughtful and provocative presentations about how libraries are already getting involved with MOOCs, and engaged attendees in discussions about strategic opportunities and challenges going forward. OCLC Research Senior Program Officer Merrilee Proffitt helped to organize the event and has posted a series of six blog posts on the OCLC Research blog, Hangingtogether, that recap presentation highlights and summarize its outcomes.
Michael Porter, a professor at the Harvard Business School. The scholar who in some respects became his successor, Clayton M. Christensen, entered a doctoral program at the Harvard Business School in 1989 and joined the faculty in 1992. Christensen was interested in why companies fail. In his 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” he argued that, very often, it isn’t because their executives made bad decisions but because they made good good decisions, the same kind of good decisions that had made those companies successful for decades. (The “innovator’s dilemma” is that “doing the right thing is the wrong thing.”)
Christensen called “disruptive innovation”: the selling of a cheaper, poorer-quality product that initially reaches less profitable customers but eventually takes over and devours an entire industry.
Christensen has co-written books urging disruptive innovation in higher education (“The Innovative University”), public schools (“Disrupting Class”), and health care (“The Innovator’s Prescription”).
Startups are ruthless and leaderless and unrestrained, and they seem so tiny and powerless, until you realize, but only after it’s too late, that they’re devastatingly dangerous: Bang! Ka-boom! Think of it this way: the Times is a nation-state; BuzzFeed is stateless. Disruptive innovation is competitive strategy for an age seized by terror.
Replacing “progress” with “innovation” skirts the question of whether a novelty is an improvement: the world may not be getting better and better but our devices are getting newer and newer.
The word “innovate”—to make new—used to have chiefly negative connotations: it signified excessive novelty, without purpose or end.
Joseph Schumpeter, in his landmark study of business cycles, used the word to mean bringing new products to market, a usage that spread slowly, and only in the specialized literatures of economics and business.
Disruptive innovation can reliably be seen only after the fact.
Christensen has compared the theory of disruptive innovation to a theory of nature: the theory of evolution. But among the many differences between disruption and evolution is that the advocates of disruption have an affinity for circular arguments.
Like the bursting of the dot-com bubble, the meltdown didn’t dim the fervor for disruption; instead, it fuelled it, because these products of disruption contributed to the panic on which the theory of disruption thrives.
People aren’t disk drives. Public schools, colleges and universities, churches, museums, and many hospitals, all of which have been subjected to disruptive innovation, have revenues and expenses and infrastructures, but they aren’t industries in the same way that manufacturers of hard-disk drives or truck engines or drygoods are industries. Journalism isn’t an industry in that sense, either.
Historically, institutions like museums, hospitals, schools, and universities have been supported by patronage, donations made by individuals or funding from church or state. The press has generally supported itself by charging subscribers and selling advertising. (Underwriting by corporations and foundations is a funding source of more recent vintage.) Charging for admission, membership, subscriptions and, for some, earning profits are similarities these institutions have with businesses. Still, that doesn’t make them industries, which turn things into commodities and sell them for gain.
Christensen and Eyring’s recommendations for the disruption of the modern university include a “mix of face-to-face and online learning.” The publication of “The Innovative University,” in 2011, contributed to a frenzy for Massive Open Online Courses, or moocs, at colleges and universities across the country, including a collaboration between Harvard and M.I.T., which was announced in May of 2012. Shortly afterward, the University of Virginia’s panicked board of trustees attempted to fire the president, charging her with jeopardizing the institution’s future by failing to disruptively innovate with sufficient speed;
Faced with increasingly complex communication technologies—voice, video, multimedia, animation—university faculty, expert in their own disciplines, find themselves technically perplexed, largely unprepared to build digital courses.
instructional designers, long employed by industry, joined online academic teams, working closely with faculty to upload and integrate interactive and engaging content.
nstructional designers, as part of their skillset, turned to digital authoring systems, software introduced to stimulate engagement, encouraging virtual students to interface actively with digital materials, often by tapping at a keyboard or touching the screen as in a video game. Most authoring software also integrates assessment tools, testing learning outcomes.
With authoring software, instructional designers can steer online students through a mixtape of digital content—videos, graphs, weblinks, PDFs, drag-and-drop activities, PowerPoint slides, quizzes, survey tools and so on. Some of the systems also offer video editing, recording and screen downloading options
As with a pinwheel set in motion, insights from many disciplines—artificial intelligence, cognitive science, linguistics, educational psychology and data analytics—have come together to form a relatively new field known as learning science, propelling advances in a new personalized practice—adaptive learning.
Of the top providers, Coursera, the Wall Street-financed company that grew out of the Stanford breakthrough, is the champion with 37 million learners, followed by edX, an MIT-Harvard joint venture, with 18 million. Launched in 2013, XuetangX, the Chinese platform in third place, claims 18 million.
Former Yale President Rick Levin, who served as Coursera’s CEO for a few years, speaking by phone last week, was optimistic about the role MOOCs will play in the digital economy. “The biggest surprise,” Levin argued, “is how strongly MOOCs have been accepted in the corporate world to up-skill employees, especially as the workforce is being transformed by job displacement. It’s the right time for MOOCs to play a major role.”
In virtual education, pedagogy, not technology, drives the metamorphosis from absence to presence, illusion into reality. Skilled online instruction that introduces peer-to-peer learning, virtual teamwork and other pedagogical innovations stimulate active learning. Online learning is not just another edtech product, but an innovative teaching practice. It’s a mistake to think of digital education merely as a device you switch on and off like a garage door.
Goldie Blumenstyk, called it the “embedded for-profit university” because there’s all these different for-profits operations within a nonprofit higher-ed institution.
One of the MOOC founders who said five years later, well MOOCs have failed as an educational experiment. And my comment to that was, they never were an educational experiment.
Anya Kamenetz called “DIY U” people cobbling together an education from various sources
And we are in a world of multiple new models. The work I’ve done in the last 20 years in online or technologically enhanced learning suggests that fewer than 10 percent of the people who are learners are able to self-direct—or really more like 4 percent.
Microcredentials, or short-form online learning programs, is the latest buzzword that higher education providers are latching onto. They come with diminutive names such as Micromasters (by several universities working with edX) and nanodegrees (by Udacity). But they have the potential to shake up graduate education, potentially reducing demand for longer, more-traditional professional programs. At the core of the trend is the idea that professionals will go “back to school” repeatedly over their lifetimes, rather than carving out years at a time for an MBA or technical degree.
Credential Engine, a nonprofit funded by the Lumina Foundation, Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase, today launched its Credential Registry, a digital platform where institutions can upload degrees and credentials so prospective students can search for and compare credentials side-by-side.
Udacity won a trademark for Nanodegree last year. And in April, the nonprofit edX, founded by MIT and Harvard University to deliver online courses by a consortium of colleges, applied for a trademark on the word MicroMasters. And MicroDegree? Yep, that’s trademarked too, by yet another company.
colleges and universities that seek to meet corporate needs must move beyond monolithic programs and think in terms of competencies, unbundling curriculum, modularizing and “microlearning.” Many institutions are already pioneering efforts in this direction, from the certificate- and badge-oriented University of Learning Store (led by the Universities of Wisconsin, California, Washington and others) to Harvard Business School’s HBX, and the new “iCert” that we developed at Northeastern University. These types of shorter-form, competency-oriented programs can better fit corporate demands for targeted and applied learning.
The corporate training market, which is over $130 billion in size, is about to be disrupted. Companies are starting to move away from their Learning Management Systems (LMS), buy all sorts of new tools for digital learning, and rebuild a whole new infrastructure to help employees learn. And the impact of GSuite, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Workplace by Facebook could be enormous.
The corporate L&D market has been through wrenching change over the last decade. In only 15 years we’ve come from long, page-turning courses to a wide variety of videos, small micro-learning experiences, mobile apps, and intelligent, adaptive learning platforms.
A new marketplace of tools vendors has emerged, most less than five years old, each trying to stake out a new place in the landscape. These includes tools for external content curation, tools to build MOOCs internally, tools to deliver adaptive, micro-learning content, and intelligent tools to help recommend content, assess learning, practice and identify skills gaps.
We know employees badly need these kinds of tools. Employees are pretty overwhelmed at work ,and typically only have 20 minutes a week to set aside for learning. So rather than produce two to three hour “courses” that require page-turning and slow video or animation, we need to offer “learning on-demand” and recommended content just as needed.
These changes will disrupt and change the $4 billion-plus for corporate learning management systems (LMS). Companies like IBM, Sears, and Visa are starting to turn off their old systems and build a new generation of learning infrastructure that looks more like a “learning network” and less like a single integrated platform.