I can think of many reasons for this imbalance, but launching a quiver of arrows seems distracting. When I think deeply on it, I think the root ‘stolen thunder’ is the (mutual) mistaken belief that  MOOCs and GOFOCs (good old-fashioned online courses) are solving the same problem.

Easy mistake to make. It seems to me that while David is correctly notes that “not all online education is massive,” our understatement or outright failure to understand the centrality of both massiveness and openness in the educational policy debates surrounding MOOCs may consign us to important but secondary roles in an epochal change that is underway.

MOOCs, in my opinion, while likely important, are merely catalysts of the changes ahead.

Audacious Goals Make MOOCs Newsworthy

MOOCs are not hot news because they showcase revolutionary technologies. They don’t.

MOOCs are not news because they are evincing better rates of course completion. They aren’t.

In my judgment, MOOCs now dominate the broad debate about higher education because they are focused on higher education’s two biggest problems.

First, the “massification” of instruction challenges traditional educators’ most cherished belief (and argument) that quality is unalterably bound up in intimate (face to face or virtual) interactions between students and teachers and with one another. The student-faculty ratio is a hugely weighted factor in any ranking of colleges and universities.

If one can achieve quality – with mass – (note the Open U of the UK accomplished this using a different delivery paradigm) then one can directly attack the twin challenges of higher education accessibility and affordability. This, in a nutshell, is what Jim Collins called a “big, hairy, audacious goal.”


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