Mad about MOOCs? We’re missing the point

The rapid rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) is an exciting development for higher education, drawing Harvard, M.I.T., Stanford, and other top schools into ventures touted as revolutionizing the way we learn, what we pay for it, and who can participate, the Concord Monitor reports.

Here’s what that dramatic narrative fails to acknowledge: The revolution is already here – and it’s not MOOCs. It’s the blended learning that for more than a decade has mixed online instruction and residential coursework.

This revolution, which has a superficial resemblance to MOOCs, has been expanding steadily and quietly over the past 10 years, which may explain why the fanfare has gone instead to MOOCs, whose overnight growth has drawn attention normally reserved for 21-year-old pitching phenoms.

MOOCs get the ink – Harvard’s and M.I.T.’s investment of $30 million each into the edX platform and the venture money flowing into Stanford spinoffs Coursera and Udacity have legitimized efforts to expand the reach and scale of online learning – but the real story is this growth of blended learning and the team approach to teaching that is necessary to create these new courses.

Across higher ed, faculty are collaborating with learning designers, librarians, media specialists and educational technologists to create blended courses that take advantage of the intimacy and flexibility of face-to-face learning, while leveraging the productivity and convenience of online and mobile learning.

MOOCs share a common set of technologies, such as learning management platforms and faculty presentation capture and video sharing tools, with blended courses. But that is largely where the similarities end.

Read more