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MOOCs going mainstream? This may be the year

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Last school year, the term MOOC (massive open online course) skyrocketed into popularity as an important new experiment in higher education. This year may be the school year that the MOOC truly goes mainstream, The Washington Post reports.

This will mark the first year, for example, that it will be possible to receive a “super-cheap” master’s degree via MOOCs. Now that Silicon Valley companies like Google are showing signs of jumping aboard the MOOC bandwagon, it could forever change the way we think about the college experience. Instead of graduating with a degree from a traditional four-year university, you may one day graduate with a degree from the University of Google.

Take, for example, last month’s announcement of a partnership among Google, Harvard and MIT to expand the edX educational initiative to create a broad educational platform for free online courses.

Google’s goal, it appears, is to think about education the same way we think about software and operating systems. If it’s possible to create open-source software, then it must be possible to create an open-source education. That means making a top-tier education widely available to anyone with an Internet connection, wherever they are in the world. You no longer have to attend Harvard to get a Harvard education.

Also, in tandem with the edX announcement, Google is supporting the launch of MOOC.org, a future one-stop-shop for anyone trying to create an educational experience from scratch. Once it goes live in 2014, MOOC.org will host free online courses from universities, businesses, governments and not-for-profit providers.

That means that, instead of signing up for four years of courses at a single university, you could conceivably mix-and-match your course offerings from any of the world’s best universities. Or, if you don’t think a university’s math, science and engineering classes are preparing you for the workplace after graduation, you could add in courses from local businesses or nonprofits.

Think of courses like apps, and your education as an operating system.

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