As another "year of the MOOC" draws to a close it's worth stepping back a little and see what impact the phenomenon has really made on the world of education. Anyone who is part of the global edtech community has been eating, breathing and sleeping MOOCs for at least the last two years and it's easy to believe that the rest of the world is equally excited and involved in the discussion. However I still meet lots of clever updated students and teachers who've never heard the term and when it comes to friends outside education it doesn't even get a blip on the radar.
Infoworld has an article revealing the tech flops of the year, The worst tech predictions of 2013 -- and two that hit the mark, and guess what makes the flop list - yes MOOCs! A surprising choice given all the publicity and impressive numbers (Coursera's 5.8 million students) but a few million here and there don't add up to a hill of beans in this crazy world (to quote Bogart in Casablanca). There's a lot of activity and experiment but MOOCs are not yet reaching the lives of the real target audience, those with no access to regular higher education. The article presents the familiar evidence of few learners lasting more than a week or two on the majority of MOOCs:
Despite the unending hype, MOOCs have not taken off. A study of more than 1 million MOOC enrollees, released in December by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, found that on average only about half of those who registered for a course ever viewed a lecture, and only about 4 percent completed the courses.
The mere inclusion of MOOCs in a list of flops gives food for thought and invites us in the edtech community to step back a few paces and consider what real effects this alleged revolution has really had. I suspect that 2014 will see the term MOOC beginning to disappear and a more mature terminology evolving. There will be a wide flora of online education with wide-ranging interpretations of the word "open" and we will see some models make significant inroads in offering educational opportunities for people unable to participate in the traditional higher educational system. The full impact however of this movement will take several years to become fully apparent. Some present MOOC models will become purely commercial whilst others will embrace openness and innovation. They will complement not replace the traditional education system and hopefully contribute to its development.
Maybe MOOC has become a bit too big for its boots and needs to be taken down a peg. A place on the flop of the year list may not be a bad move at all. Time for the trough of disillusionment anyone?