Massive, online, open, and not disruptive

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are not disrupting traditional higher education as predicted by Anant Agarwal, president of edX, almost one year ago.

Some educators have backed away from MOOCs in recent months.

To date, MOOCs are not bubble-busters, tuition-busters, or even “democratizers” of higher education.

Granted MOOCs show great promise for continuing education and professional development for working adults, but the value of MOOCs in undergraduate education is questionable.

Moreover, the lack of data supporting positive learning outcomes with the MOOC format is for the most part, nonexistent. Given that considerable time, money, and energy have preoccupied institutional resources as applied to MOOCs, now is as good as time as any to re-focus and leverage what we do know about MOOCs gleaned from faculty and instructor experiences.

Discussions about improving access and expanding graduation rates by leveraging technology effectively have been stalled in recent months by over-exuberance and misinformation about MOOCs.

It doesn’t help that several institutions have excluded faculty and other affected stakeholders from conversations and strategic planning in the first place.

Open dialogue about a variety of topics with stakeholders is needed, for instance discussions about the changes in knowledge acquisition due to abundance of information and resources, the use of mobile devices, student demand for learning anytime and anywhere, online learning and MOOCs (and the difference between the two), and open educational resources.

The way forward

Constructive discussions leading to position statements or institutional guidelines for each of these areas should include affected stakeholders, but a starting point is productive discourse by informed parties.

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