Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Of MOOCs and dragons

Sometimes I read an article or listen to a lecture and just nod enthusiastically all the way through. That was my reaction listening to this excellent defence of the whole MOOC movement by Donald Clark, The decentralisation and democratisation of learning. He goes through the list of frequently voiced criticisms (low completion rates, poor pedagogy, business models, low interaction with teachers) and answers them convincingly. I've written about them all here many times (85 posts on this blog with the tag MOOC so far) but it's good to get everything condensed into a lecture of just under 24 minutes.

This ties in nicely with a new article by Dan Butin in Inside Higher Ed, From MOOCs to dragons, that discusses how MOOCs are evolving into much more sophisticated learning arenas that will soon challenge the exclusive and increasingly over-priced campus model. Dan sees three disruptive factors that will lead to a new model for higher education: automated assessment, adaptive learning, and data analytics. As these become increasingly advanced they will offer low-cost and scalable solutions to processes that are at present expensive and time-consuming in the traditional system. These developments can be seen optimistically as a way of offering personalized education for all or pessimistically leading to faculty job losses and a shift of education into the arms of big business. His basic message is that we must sail off the map into the dragon-infested unknown.

Nevertheless, I believe we are at a new moment exactly because forthcoming digital learning technologies will create educational models that mirror and improve current educational practices at a scale and pace impossible before now. So grab your life vest, power up your Google Maps app, and beware of the dragons ahead.

Just watch the lecture and read the article.

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