MOOCs are toast or at least should be

Is it time yet to declare massive open online courses or MOOCs an academic failure? The ongoing revelations about poor test results, high dropout rates and disgruntled university instructors make it clear that MOOCs are not the panacea for 21st higher education that their proponents claimed they would be, Forbes reports. In fact, outside of the opportunity to build new online technology platforms and develop advantageous partnerships with companies external to academia, MOOCs have turned out to be only a minor achievement in pedagogy—and an expensive one at that. Of course, the fact that many of the nation’s most prestigious schools are connected to high-profile MOOCs, such as Coursera (Stanford University), edX (Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Udacity (Stanford again) made them inordinately popular. But their promise has yet to be achieved. MOOCs are not a transformative innovation that will remake academia. That honor belongs to a more disruptive and far-reaching innovation—Big Data and its application, and the adaptive education that results. The vast numbers of data sets that are collected daily, or Big Data, will likely revolutionize online learning by allowing educators to customize learning to individual students through adaptive learning. I’m not suggesting that MOOCs will disappear completely.

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